Here’s the reason people quit when they quit: when you’ve seen the top of the mountain it’s no fun to hang out only a 1/3 of the way up knowing you won’t make the top again. Sure, it can be a different sort of fun, but it’s not the same. You can't call that competitive.
One of the most powerful decisions we can make about any activity is to quit... or to engage, to do. Here’s the reason why, when you have the option of quitting, and you decide to do it, to stay, you are deciding to see it through the long haul. You had the option to quit, and you didn’t. One of the reasons youth sports can be uninspiring is because many of the kids don’t want to be there. Their parents put them in the sport and the kids don’t feel they have the option to quit, or it wasn’t their choice to play. Even in college sports some people are there because they feel it’s what is expected of them. There is often less passion. That’s one of the really nice things about post collegiate competitive running, or about 8000 meter mountaineering, by that point the group has so self selected that everyone wants to be there. People will literally die, or shorten their lives to achieve whatever it is they are seeking.
Almost four weeks into my break from running now and I’m feeling better, not so run down. I’ve had the urge to run and bicycle a few times, but I haven’t acted on them yet. A few simple walks have sufficed. Still my legs have had waves of tiredness, or soreness, and my joints have been a little tired, like they are regenerating. I know that's ridiculous to say I can feel my joints regenerating, but that's what it feels like. On a different note, it’s quite interesting because I don’t feel the fire like I have other times in the past. Of course, I know that the fire feeds on progress, and getting into shape, and having good workouts all perpetuate the motivation.
In 2004 I quit competitive running. I finished my high school track season, ran a 5k on July 4th, and then didn’t run for six months. I thought my competitive running days were over. But after a nice January and February of jogging, I missed the team atmosphere, and joined for outdoor track at WPI in the spring of 2005. I was dead last in three of the four races I ran. Strangely, the season ended with me having quite a bit of motivation for cross country, and that December, I ended up breaking through with my first sub 5 mile, a 4:59.85. A year before I had no idea that would happen. I probably would not have believed you if you had told me I would run sub 5.
I am really thinking about calling it a running career. But a part of me knows what is possible, and how close I have been to my limits. A 2:30:20 marathon still stings five years later. Oh how a 2:29:59 would have been so much nicer! Of my ultras, one went well, the other five have been less than I am capable of. God has given me this gift to run long distances and I just have to figure out if my past is all there will be, or if there is more? It’s a question no one can answer for me. You don’t have my body. Really the particularly worrying thing is that I have DNF’d my last two major races with the same complaint, muscle damage. It's like the 2015 24 Hour Wold Championships hurt me so bad when I get to the point in a race where my legs are damaged my brain sends more pain signals than necessary to prevent me going through that experience again. If I try again, and my legs can’t take it, why bother in the first place? I don’t know.
What I will do in the future I don't know.