I’ve been reading an illuminating book by Ashton Applewhite: This Chair Rocks - A Manifesto Against Ageism (highly recommend), which points out the stat that people are happiest at the beginnings and ends of their lives, and that “chronological age is an increasingly unreliable benchmark of pretty much anything about a person.” I’ve been challenging myself to apply Ashton’s concepts to the journey of running, and focus on conscious contentment as a goal.

One necessary tool on this journey? Ultimate flexibility. I’m not talking about the muscle/ tendon kind of flexibility - that can help, although strength is probably more important - I’m talking about true mental flexibility that is practiced by the minute, hour, day, month, and year.

The athlete trope of goal-setting followed by a hard “stick to the plan and grind” mentality is of limited utility to athletes in their 20’s and 30’s and even less utility over the age of 40. Athlete strength is nurtured by the use of intuition and following body cues, which over time will lead to greater health, strength, and more positive experiences. How does this work in practice? It’s tricky! Goals are good...but inflexible goals are not.

I’ve heard privately from a remarkable number of athletes (training for everything from the Olympic Trials to their first 5K) that they felt a sense of relief at the lack of races this year. Athletes valued the removal of an external-pressure timeline, so they could advance their training at their own sustainable pace.


I felt that relief myself. In my selfish head bubble, I was personally relieved when Boston was delayed in April and again in September. I was going to force myself to run it, with the thought that I might never get another chance. But my body was 100% not ready. On reflection, I was operating with a true scarcity mindset.

This May, with another injury flare-up, generalized fatigue, and low motivation, I stopped running. I switched to walking - with the goal to get outside on my feet for at least an hour a day. I figured if the urge to run never came back, I should listen to myself and be done! After about 6 weeks or so, and increasing my time outside to 90 minutes, I found myself spontaneously bounding up the 350 steps on the hill behind my house. And breaking into a run when I was on a certain soft shady trail. I started running only when I “felt like it” during these walks - not timing it separately or recording minutes. That usually meant running only on the downhill portions - that’s a pretty fun way to run!

I’ve felt more and more like running - and when I run I really want to, so I greatly enjoy it! During the Womxn Run the Vote week (ok, who else went overboard?!?) I was overcome with team-inspired motivation and covered over 60 miles. A lot of those miles were walking - I don’t specify in my logs, but I was able to cover 10 running miles straight with Bob and Sally on a beautifully soft, gravel, tree-covered route. And paradoxically, my body feels stronger and more fit. From walking, from slowing down.

A few weeks ago, I set out on an adventure route outside Bend I’ve been wanting to do. I gave myself enough time for hiking only and just rolled with how I felt. That day, I was able to run the entire last 5 miles (downhill - it was glorious). Soaking my feet in the creek after the 12+ miles, I had a wild thought: “maybe another time I’ll do a second lap - if I want to try a challenge.” !!!! Taking what the day gives...which interestingly causes greater contentment and greater imagination for infinite possibilities via living in the moment.

Although I was forced to this athletic practice of ultimate flexibility (and people seem to need to learn their own lessons), I recommend trying it! Flexibility is not just for masters either. When racing comes back, try to maintain a looser hold on the “shoulds” - shoulds often drive bad decisions. When you’re flexible, you will do less some days, but on some days you’ll do much more than you could have imagined.

Switching from scarcity to an abundance mindset - really, anything is possible if you’re flexible.

Lesko (age 51, but what difference does that make?)


PS: Race registration processes also create bad decision-making. How many people can afford to drop $150+ on a race and truly not care if they race or not? I’d love for races to develop a flexible masters registration option and buddy up with other races: register for [Richmond, CIM, Houston, Big Sur, Eugene package] and you can only race one of them - whichever works out. (Race directors, I’ve thought about this a lot! Hit me up to talk details!)

Sarah Lesko
Tagged: training


I have been running so long for health I really do not know how many years. The fun of getting together before the start and the fellowship after the run is a joy. Last year everything was cancelled and except for one push to put in a time for The Rut, I walked. I took long walks with my dog in a 10 mile radius of my home .I chose to stay close to home as the trails were packed with so many people. Walking was good for my mental health as well as both my dog and my physical health. Spring (some day) will show up in my little Montana town and we are still walking. I have added some running back in but as you stated in your blog, when I am ready. I end up walking and forgetting I was running and pick up the pace. I am with you on the thought races should be cost friendly. I signed up for a late fall Marathon just to give me a goal and knowing the cost was paid and I have a printed plan to look at is slowly getting me motivated but I also know I can drop to a half or transfer or skip. Its a lot of money to shell out for motivation but at 65 I still feel I have my best marathon time ahead of me or maybe I will still be a 5 hour 26.2 runner. I will contemplate that on my walk this morning.

— Terrie Hoyt

I’m so glad you said this. Having a “loose hold on the shoulds”.

I’m 52 and last year I had a goal of running 8 half marathons.
Well, we know how last year turned out.

So I asked myself-what is stopping me from just running 13.1 miles. Nothing!!

I ran one a month on the months that I was trained for them. No crowds,
no T-shirts and no medals and it didn’t matter. I accomplished my goal
and the benefits….helped me tremendously. I was focused on something
else. My fitness and my goals and finishing those.

As we get older we have a different perspective. One more gentle with
And I like your idea of RD collaborating with other RDs.

— Mironda Meyer

Wow- thanks for putting into words what is actually a reality for many of us in this 7th month. Grace for my pace is my new mantra!

— Vicki Takata

I am 56 and have been running off and on since I was 14. As I’ve aged I have almost no desire to push for goals as I once did. I don’t want to run big road races. I do train for a trail race with my sons but I don’t have the drive I used to. That said I did a 100 day run COVID streak. Until it got to be too much. So.. flexibility rules and as we gain wisdom priorities shift.

— Mary Sparks Thompson