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A Trail Runner’s Resolutions

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So noble and well-intentioned, and so neglected, my lofty resolutions from New Years past:

Practice mindful meditation. As if I could sit still and just breathe.

Read at least one book a month. Does starting one count?

Edit the digital-image dump dating back to 2010 and print photos in thematic, artfully designed albums. LOL.

Instead of rekindling perennially unfulfilled goals and half-baked projects, I resolve to narrow my New Year’s resolutions. I resolve to become a better trail runner.

I will make it my unwavering mission to change six running-related habits for the better and, in the process, become a happier and more productive member of society.


1. To go outside and run when I put on running clothes. Never again will I dress to run trails and fritter away time in the kitchen reading the latest posts from iRunFar, Trail Runner and UltraRunnerPodcast. I resolve not to spend an entire day optimistically—nay, desperately—wearing running clothes while attempting to fulfill professional obligations, as if 90 minutes magically will open up. No more surrendering to a beer at 6 p.m. still wearing that clean technical T and shorts.

2. To realistically estimate the time it will take to complete a trail run and return home. No more telling my family I will be back in three hours to join them for something, then returning two hours late, exhausted, smelly, caked with dirt and ravenous, useless for doing anything and ignoring everyone around me while I concentrate on eating.

3. To register for ultra-distance trail races before 5 p.m. and in consultation with my husband and in consideration of my long-term training plan. No more after-dinner, chardonnay-infused sessions with UltraSignup while my husband watches TV in the other room. I will resist the impulse to hit “register,” in spite of the thrill it produces, and I will avoid the morning-after guilt from spending money on a race that doesn’t fit with real-life commitments or training goals.

4. To wait until I am back home to post on Facebook any envy-inducing photos from a beautiful trail run. Furthermore, I resolve to limit the number of such photos to one a month. Or at least, one a week. I promise not to use my phone’s camera mid-run when I’m tired (and bored and lonely) as an excuse to stop, take multiple photos, then edit and upload one with a blustery caption such as, “Midway to the summit, and already it’s epic!” If ever I commit this bad habit again, I resolve not to pause repeatedly during the duration of the trail run to check whether the post received any “likes.”

5. To remove all my gear from the car and clean it the same day I go running. Never again will the sun-soaked Subaru wagon’s wayback serve as an oversized Petri dish in which a sweaty hydration pack, sticky gel wrappers, dank half-empty bottles and a muddy towel produce a fetid, fecund environment for microorganisms that no detergent can mask. Even the dog will thank me.

6. To use drop bags when I race ultras only if the contents truly are essential and cannot be obtained from aid stations. No more packing drop bags in a “what-if” mindset that bloats the duffle with an entire change of clothes, a spare pair of shoes, two headlamps, a dozen Band-Aids and an economy-sized bag of Swedish Fish. Furthermore, if I pack a drop bag, I resolve to remember to retrieve it after crossing the finish.

Sarah Lavender Smith is a contributing editor at Trail Runner. She is proud that she fulfilled her 2016 resolution to organize a junk drawer. She blogs at