My running has been sporadic lately.  What with the move, a new school year and job searching, finding time to get the miles in has felt like an overwhelming hurdle.

Yesterday I hit Bobolink with the Saturday morning girls (Bobolink is an easy 6.6 mile out-and-back on a moderately flat trail surface).  It was frosty at the start and took a good 5k to warm up my stiff muscles. The second 5k felt like a little slice of warm apple pie; senses were heightened and the warm suppleness of leg muscles was like a sugar rush at the end.

While pulling jars of applesauce out of the boiling water canner yesterday afternoon a text came through from Team Alpaca.  Was anyone up for a 6:15 run at Bobolink? Figuring we’d do the same run I had just completed a few hours earlier, I said yes, laid out cold-weather running clothes and set the alarm for 5:30am.

When I pulled into the parking lot it occurred to me that Jen, one of the Team Alpaca members, is in the middle of a marathon training cycle.  Why in the world would she be doing a 10k on a Long Run day?

The answer was that we were running 14 miles, a base level long run, not the 6.6 mile Bobolink out-and-back I was mentally prepared for.

I quickly shifted gears.  Jen had an extra Gu and Dave had an extra bottle in his fuel belt.  All I had to do was run.

During the spring marathon training cycle when Team Alpaca formed, I was waist-deep in a funk.  I had registered for a marathon and zero motivation for training.  Then one day Dave texted me for a run.  A few days later the group met for a long run at the Boulder Reservoir.  The next week a few of us did a tempo run, then a few of us did a trail run… and just like that, a marathon training plan appeared out of thin air.  The bonus was that my training partners turned into true friends.  We had each other to motivate and tease, and we applauded every victory.  We were on fire and that training cycle became one for the record books.

As we ran and talked today a few common threads appeared.  We’re all at a much lower fitness level than we were at this spring or summer due to jobs and/or family (or a combination of things).  We dissected the reason for our collective regression as we gently covered the last five miles back to the trailhead.

No single day can have a perfect balance of fitness, career and family.  The balance comes over a year of seasons and is a lifetime goal.  You can’t obtain balance by willing it to appear in your life; you accept that sometimes one aspect of your life will take priority over the others at various points, and enjoy the ride because it won’t last forever.  Nothing lasts forever.

In a fast-paced culture where we want eternal youth, happiness or constant PR’s, we set ourselves up for disappointment because those expectations aren’t realistic.  “Forever” implies a stasis in factors that are outside our control; factors like the passage of time, loss of a job, new family members or changes in marital status.  Sometimes illness forces us to slow down or Mother Nature freezes IT Bands like a cruel winter blizzard.  It doesn’t matter the reason; the undercurrent emerged that sometimes we need to adjust expectations and change focus for a little bit.

Running is not static.  Time is fluid.  Seasons change, gray hair appears and sometimes you wake up more tired than when you went to bed.  It’s okay to embrace a change in focus.  That embrace allows us to truly appreciate the moment we are in because it will slip away.  Nothing stays the same.  That’s the beauty of time.