It’s no secret that I believe running is selfish. That has turned out to be a rather unpopular statement, but I still believe it to be true.

I mean think about it, running is driven by personal goals. It requires time and energy, taken away from other (often more important) things. Family and friends are left out to dry, but still expected to support and encourage you … even give up entire days or weekends just to chase you around a course.

But I also know that running is about much more than just personal goals and ambitions. It’s about being a better person, inspiring others to live a healthy lifestyle, and of course, community.

What if we started putting more energy into that side of running? The non-selfish side.

Think about all the great things that could happen.

Back in 2015 I themed this site around a single topic: Smart Running. That theme shaped the content each week, was the driving force behind new products and the Trail Talk podcast. And I’m proud of what we did.

But this year, I want to do something different.

Instead of focusing just on improving our running, and I want us to also focus on improving as runners. See the difference?

So this year, here at Rock Creek Runner, 2016 will be the Year of Service.

Allow me to explain …

Trail Running is Built on Service

Trail running is built on service.

It’s volunteers that maintain the vast majority of trails in the United States, and it’s volunteers that man aid stations, keep us fed, and keep us safe on race day. Most race directors are paid very little (if anything at all) to put on a race, and instead do it for the love of the sport.

We support each other on social media. We raise money for charities. We build each other up at running groups, and hold each other accountable when focus slips.

And by exploring nature’s trails, we’re helping to preserve them.

So, during this Year of Service, all the content will have the underlying theme of serving the sport, community, and our bodies by being better runners. Of course there will be plenty of focus on training advice, goal setting, and race day strategies, but it will also be more than that.

Serving Ourselves

All service starts with yourself. If you’re not in the right place, nothing you do will be as effective. So this year we’ll train our bodies and minds to be stronger, smarter, and tougher.

Serving the Trails

Trail running doesn’t exist without trails, and as regular users, it’s our obligation to help preserve the trails and surrounding wild areas, through maintenance projects, clean-ups, policy support, donations, and countless other ways.

To put my money where my mouth is, I’ve decided to donate 5% of all Rock Creek Runner proceeds in 2016 to Conservaction Patagonica, donated on a quarterly basis. Back in 2007, I spent a year in Chile, and while there, I had the opportunity to explore much of the Patagonia and lake regions. The land is unique and vibrant, and helped shape my appreciation for and understanding of the outdoors. I feel privileged to give back to those mountains and trails. Even in this small way.

Want to learn more about Conservaction Patagonica? Check out this cool (running related) video.

Serving You as a Reader

There’s nothing I want more with Rock Creek Runner than to serve you, the reader, as a runner. If I’m failing at that, the blog itself is failing.

My pledge for 2016 is to do even better than 2015, with more free content, resources, videos, and downloads. Another season of Trail Talk, products designed to serve your specific needs, and more opportunities to work with you directly.

Serving the Community

Community is the backbone of trail running, and over the course of this year, we’ll explore inventive ways to build, strengthen, and support this unique community.

16 Ways You can be of Service in 2016

I want this Year of Service to be about more than just me and Rock Creek Runner. Here are ways you can help:

1) Perform trail maintenance on your local trail system.

2) Man an aid station or help cook food at a local race.

3) Host a trail running meet-up to get your fellow runners motivated and excited.

4) Mentor a newer runner through your running club.

5) Donate to or volunteer for running charities like Girls on the Run or Back on My Feet, or to wildlife and trail non-profits like Conservaction Patagonica, Nature Conservancy, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, or Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

6) Hold signs at a race and cheer people on, or simply share words of encouragement next time you see someone running.

7) Pick up trash next time you’re out on the trail.

8) Take a non-runner out for a short run.

9) Volunteer to be sweeper at a local race.

10) Support legislation that preserves our forests and parks.

11) Lead someone on their first trail run.

12) Explore new trails and parks.

13) Mark the course, or assist in clearing markers and trash after a race is over.

14) Push yourself to run further or faster with new goals.

15) Be an accountability partner to a runner in your community.

16) Share your running experiences with others.

Are you ready to make 2016 the best yet?

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.

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