Monticello Road is a community arts project in Charlottesville, Virginia. Through photography and a series of public events and conversations, we explore how an art can be an essential, integral and everyday part of a healthy community.

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Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Taking a Personal Celebration Up a Notch

Running has always been a passion of mine, but it is also one of the main ways I stay mentally (as well as physically) healthy. I lost that outlet for a while last winter due to injury and it took me many months to regain what I had lost. Happily, by summer I was back fully fit—and even better because my rehab had improved my strength, balance, and flexibility. I’m grateful for the process and I wanted to celebrate my return to wellness in a way that adds abundance to the community that helped me get back on my feet.

Charlottesville is blessed with many beautiful (but often hidden or even private) places to experience nature. Perhaps the crown jewel is the Rivanna Trail, a twenty-mile hiking path that encircles the city. It is a favorite spot for running, walking and mountain biking and I have probably logged thousands of miles on it—but I’ve never done the whole thing at once. There is a group that runs the loop every year around the winter solstice so I made that my goal: I trained and prepared for the 20-mile loop run in December as my own celebration of good health.

From my 20-years’ work on the New York City Marathon I knew that running—that seemingly solitary sport can—can also be a massively collective celebration of the Possible. I wanted my personal milestone to happen in a way that could inspire other people, draw strength from those around me, and have a direct positive financial impact: all things that happen abundantly with the five-borough race. I decided to do the run as a fundraiser for my employer, the Piedmont Environmental Council, which among other things promotes trails in my area.

This decision to run for a cause had consequences. It made it larger than me and created accountability. Once I announced publicly that I would do it, there was no going back. It also rallied lots of support to my side in the form of encouragement from family, friends, and even a group of my teammates who volunteered to run all or part of it with me. That group of champions happened to include the physician who oversaw my rehab, which was a nice connection.

The run got delayed by a week due to epic flooding on the trail, which was actually kind of good because it landed the run on the day after the Solstice. It was a bit of a sogfest: we still had to wade through waist-deep water in several places. It was also more beautiful than I had imagined, with a mist, clear light and a big full moon that set at sunrise of that first lengthening day. Although I was obviously tired at the end and it was plenty challenging, it was easier on my body than I had expected. That might result from the joy of celebration: it felt more like renewal than closure.

I easily exceeded the modest ($400) goal I had set. I could have probably raised much more but that wasn’t really the point. I mainly wanted to demonstrate that the ways that we each personally strive to become better at whatever we do can be shared with others. It will inspire them; and when they rally to your cause, it will further energize you and make your goals easier to obtain.

I’m telling you this in the hope that it will inspire you. As you make plans and do your cool and even wacky projects, be sure to let other people know about them so they can help you and get better together. It’s good for everyone.

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