Note from Doug: This is the first installment of a new series I’m calling Friday Footnotes. A few times each month we’ll be releasing an additional post, sometimes from me, sometimes from guest writers, but always on a Friday. The goal of these posts will not be another how to or information driven post, but will instead be thoughts, stories, and meditations on any given topic related to running and the trail running lifestyle, inspired by our experiences on the trail.

I look forward to hearing what you think about this new type of content on Rock Creek Runner, and having more broad discussions on topics facing our community. So let’s get to it.


After crossing the finish line a few weeks ago at the Bel Monte Endurance Run 50 miler, I was overcome by a feeling of relief. Not the relief I normally get from races, where the emotion is mixed with elation and a sense of accomplishment, but instead it was a feeling relief that the damn race was over.

“Thank god that’s done with,” I remember telling my dad who had come out to support me.

And I couldn’t really figure out why this one felt different.

Bel Monte had all the makings of what would be my ideal race:

  1. A beautiful course,
  2. A well run operation (aid stations, support, course markings),
  3. A lively group of runners,
  4. And extremely challenging sections which I normally can’t get enough of.

It’s a race I know I’ll go back to, because it was that good.

But for some reason, I wasn’t filled with that satisfaction that has kept me coming back to ultras.

Thinking back on it a few days later, I started to piece together what happened and why I was feeling that way.

The answer was simple: Inspiration.

I’ve run very few events where that race wasn’t the end goal. Where that race wasn’t what I had been training and working for.

And because it wasn’t the end goal, the act of racing that day wasn’t providing much inspiration.

Instead, it was just one more thing I had to check off the list before I could start focusing on my real goal, the forthcoming Massanutten Mountain Trail 100.

Realizing that it was the lack of inspiration had me bummed out.

Why wasn’t the act of spending the day running and pushing myself not big enough motivation in and of itself?

Because I had lost sight of the big picture.

Checking in with Your Inspiration

GOPR0015Less than a week later I went out on my first big run after the race, a link-up for six of the “Seven Sisters,” a string of seven mountain peaks connected by a single ridge a few miles from where I’m living outside Asheville, North Carolina.

It would take me about 2.5-3 hours at a mild effort to complete the out and back, which included roughly 3,500 feet of climb, rugged single track, 6 peaks between 3,950 ft and 5,408 ft, and some incredible overlooks.

The trail starts with a 1,500 foot climb within the first mile and a half. I take off power hiking the steep climb with as much strength as my legs can expense.

By the time I reached the first peak and first major overlook, a smile had stretched out across my face.

My inspiration was back.

It was then that I realized I had been so caught up in my training that I had lost sight of what I was training to begin with. I’m not training in order to run 100 miles.

I’m training for the experiences I’ll have in the process of running 100 miles.

For the adventures and explorations (just like that Seven Sisters run) I go on throughout the journey.

For the people I’ll meet and the views I’ll see.

And for the challenges that teach me new lessons and how to be a better person.

At Bel Monte I was treating the race as a task, not part of the experience. And my inspiration was lost in the process.


We all find inspiration from different things.

I loved reading stories around the Boston Marathon of runners inspired by those out running the race this year. And I love hearing people share stories of how inspiring friends, family, and even complete strangers can be.

Some people are inspired by a drive for a healthier lifestyle or facing down new fears. Some just by the daily ritual.

Whatever the inspiration, it can be easy to lose sight of it.

Which is precisely why I plan to start taking care of mine, and checking in on it to make sure we’re still on the same page.


Author Doug Hay is the founder of Rock Creek Runner, host of the Trail Talk podcast, and fanatical about everything trail running -- beards, plaid shirts, bruised toenails, and all. He and his wife live and run in beautiful Black Mountain, NC.

Support Rock Creek Runner by shopping at:


4 thoughts on “Friday Footnotes: Inspiration Comes in Many Forms

  1. Thank you for emailling me I appreciate it thank you for your advice just over 3 week I will run my first ultra marathon the comrades marathon here in south africa I am trying for silver meaning 89k in less then 7 h 30 just want ask something about ultramarathons especially the comrades marathon does anyone know it and have run it before because any advice would be helpfull?

  2. Great post Doug! You’re totally right about training for the experience. Running is about running, not medals, or finish lines, or specific distances. This is a great reminder to stay focused on what matters.

  3. I LOVE the following: “I’m not training in order to run 100 miles. I’m training for the experiences I’ll have in the process of running 100 miles.” AMEN! Thank you for reminding us all of that!

  4. Excellent essay, Doug. It really speaks to the challenge a lifelong commitment to running brings. There are going to be periods where you don’t feel anything, but then it comes back, if you remember the creative experience aspect of it all. Nice job. I’ll pass it on.

Leave a Reply