Reflections On 2015 – A Non Running Post (almost)

” Tell me – What is it you plan to do

With your one wild and precious life?”

Mary Oliver


Someone asked me yesterday if I had done much reflecting on 2015. The truth is, I did. It has been such a year – it was impossible not to. I feel like this post belongs on this blog because in many regards, this year was like an ultra. Life is an ultra.

There were victories and there were defeats. There were days where that ended with a real sense of accomplishment and days where I felt like I was not worth much at all. There were smiles and laughter and tears of true sadness. There were patches of running on empty, there were moments where everything came together at once.

There is no specific order in which to do this, in which to go through all the significant milestones. So I’ll just write things as they come along.

While lot of things came together professionally, many things came undone from a personal point of view. I suffered my most significant, longest injury to date and 2015 will remain the year where I ran the least with only 650kms over the past 12 months (I ran this in a month the year before). What not running daily did to me, I will never be able to put in words. It made me miserable for a long time. I truly thought that I would never be able walk without pain again, let alone run a single kilometre. That this absolute core part of who I am, that has shaped how I see life and the world so strongly, was a finished chapter. Like you have this place where you go when you need to think, reflect, take a break from the world, meditate out loud. This very very important place that belongs to you only. And one day you just can’t go to that place anymore. Imagine that.

I threw myself into cycling, but while the 4000+ kms I rode in 2015 sure kept me in shape, they also reminded me that what I look for and find in running is much more than an exercise high. It’s a way of regrouping and connecting with everything. It is soothing, sought loneliness.

I went back to swimming, properly, spending hours exhausting myself in chlorinated water every week, waiting for better plantar fascia days. When summer came, it became all about open water swimming, my new obsession. To me, that was the closest feeling to trail running I could get. This summer of open water swimming was a breath of fresh air in the middle of an epic year. There were many miles swum at sunset or sunrise, in the intimacy of the dusk or the dawn. There is something to be said about being alone in a lake at 6am, watching an orange sky while swimming along a swan and hearing virtually nothing but bird songs and the sound of one’s strokes breaking the surface of the water.

I experienced India and its extreme poverty. When working at an animal shelter there, I felt both empowered by the feeling of contributing to a greater cause and saddened by the feeling that whatever I was doing there was nothing but a drop of water in the sea.

I threw myself into work, more than ever before.  I had specific goals and, in a very selfish way did not let anything get in the way. I neglected other things and that came at a price. I eventually had to realise that I had completely grown apart from one of my most solid relationships. There are things you see coming from a distance but they still hit you hard with their reality when they get to you. I had lost running, I had lost a dear friend in my life and I could sense that my sick grand father will not see me graduate.

I threw myself into work – it became everything. It was my alone time to regroup, the provider of the soothing loneliness I needed so much at times.

Despite what I knew and could sense deeply, I was still blindsided by the new my brother broke to me on the afternoon of a beautiful summer day. Again – there are things you see coming from a distance but they still hit you hard with their reality when the get to you. When my grandfather left this world at age 84, I cried for days for a man who meant more to me that I’ll ever be able to express. I had no regrets, we had said everything to each other more than once. We got each other, in every meaning of the term possible. “We would have met in this life anyway” – what better last words could one ask for? The truth is however, I am still at times haunted by one of our last moments. He knew he was leaving us and when he started a sentence by: “I don’t think I will ever see you again, so listen to me”, I refused to listen. Because accepting to listen was accepting the reality of the imminent end of his beautiful life. I refused to listen. Like that could have changed the reality of things… I refused to listen. And there are still days where I think of that one moment with a stabbing pain to the heart.

My grand father did not make it to graduation. But when my diploma was handed to me two weeks later in front of the rest of my family on a glorious summer day, I was at peace. Because he had set me up on the right path and I knew with all my heart that he knew I was going to graduate and become a vet.

2015 will also forever remain the year where I was offered the job of my dreams. Twice in a year. Following graduation,  I was offered the only first job I ever wanted; and the opportunity to work in the place I had been dreaming of working at for two years. Later that year, I was honoured beyond words when a great mentor offered me to follow them on an amazing road. Marc Aurelius once said “Our life is what our thoughts make it”. I had these dreams for myself, dreams you don’t even dare speaking about out loud. And they were coming true. I am by no mean saying that the selfish way I handled many things in 2015 was the best way to go. It sure had consequences. But hard work paid off, more than I ever dreamed of.

2016 started on an overnight shift in ER, doing the only job in the world I can imagine doing and feeling like I am definitely becoming an actual vet. I think that was a pretty good start. May 2016 continues the way it started, may the plantar fascia stay with me and may 2016 be filled with awesome, incredible, mind blowing running and vetting adventures.




Happy Trails, A.Kilian-Jornet_MDalmasso