Friday, March 7, 2014

Destination vs. Journey

One thing I have been thinking about lately is the differences between "destination" and "journey". What I mean by this, is focusing on an end goal versus a trajectory in life - the latter interesting me more. When determined to reach an end goal, I find you can not only lose yourself along the way, but your judgement, morals and the experience itself.

I have seen this in myself over the last year or so in my running. At this time one year ago, I was loving running. Not to say that I don't love running now (because I very much do), but it was different. I never ran with a watch, never kept track of distance, vertical or speed. Sure every once in a while I would do an interval workout or time myself doing something, but largely I was just going out because I liked it. After signing up for what was to be my first marathon, I began to feel a change in how I ran. It didn't seem like enough to just go out and run for fun, there needed to be some end goal - a destination of sorts. Soon thereafter I had my GPS watch where I could get every bit and byte of data I could think of. It was amazing, I could track my performance and see myself get faster every day. I could see other people's workouts on Strava and compete with them and myself every run. It was the excitement of a race everyday of the week. I pushed myself harder and harder day after day. Relentlessly forcing myself to never slow down. This ended in stress fracture number 1. Missing my race, I was determined to swiftly move past my injury and come back stronger and faster. Long story short, this ended in stress fracture 2 EDIT: updated diagnosis is "hip flexor strain with moderate bursitis".
Which one am I running for? It would almost seem to be the above at times.

After these set backs I am really taking a look at what running was, is and will be to me. I feel in a sense that I have lost sight of the experience I set out to have and am now running for a number, a place, a win - a destination. Firstly, I should say that I am by no means opposed to having long term goals, I myself having a long list of such ambitions. Yet, I feel I have lost sight of the task at hand. I've become more focused on the top of the mountain rather than the ground beneath my feet. What is the top of the mountain without what is beneath it? If the top was so impressive, the Pikes Peak Marathon would be equal in achievement to taking the train to the top. Furthermore, does the destination even matter if the journey is satisfying and fulfilling? This is a question I don't think I can answer certainly; though I would argue the evidence points to the destination having almost zero significance in comparison to the journey.

I think this concept can be exemplified in 14ers. When I hiked the Democrat/Lincoln/Cameron/Bross cluster, I first though of this. 14ers are thought of to be great achievements, so of course I wanted to climb them. Upon completion I was almost dissatisfied, they were boring dirt hills with little to inspire the mind aside from being a certain elevation above sea level. My first thought was "I could have had a better time on Mt. Sanitas in Boulder". The climb on Mt Sanitas is a 30 to 40 minute path with varied terrain, technical footing and most notably, it is fun! No one is impressed by a Sanitas summit compared with a Democrat summit, but why should that even hold any weight to the individual, if they found more enjoyment on Sanitas? It would seem in this case that the journey largely outweighs the destination.

Going back to swimming as of late due to my injury; on a whim, I did a workout with a random guy at the pool. I forgot about everything I had planned on doing, the yardage I wanted to get to, the times I wanted to hit and how tired I wanted to be. Instead I had a great time pushing myself alongside someone else who shared similar ambitions. When either of us got a cramp, we stopped - that would have ruined the experience to have kept going.

When I look back at my favorite runs ever, many I couldn't even tell you how far or fast I ran. In fact, I'm not sure I have a race which could break into my top 5 runs. What has made my favorites special is the raw emotion I felt. On Pawnee pass I saw the most breathtaking views I could imagine. On the first snow of winter I played on the icy trails of the flatirons. But my favorite of all, is essentially a 3 minute burst of energy I felt on a daily run. It felt so pure, as if everything was stripped away. A journey cannot be recreated as a destination can, which makes them unique and special. I will never experience that moment ever again - this makes that journey all the more precious. There was no goal in that run, no pre determined idea of what I wanted to do. Just running.

Again, I don't want to discount the value of goals, it just shouldn't mean tunnel vision. Once your journey loses its appeal the destination doesn't even matter, since the destination is defined by the journey. Similarly, on journey with an incredibly wonderful experience the destination shouldn't matter. This is how running was to me, how it currently isn't for me, and how I want it to be.


  1. Great post! This is definately a great thinking point and I really need to evaluate all of this as well.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this article, and it is actually related to a 'stream of consciousness' account of a run I ran recently. I just felt like I wanted to express what I'd felt, remembered and seen during the run. It is something that I don't do enough, and while I enjoy the challenge of running against the clock, I like to be more mindful of being in the 'now' and not just focussing on where I get to and when.

    I like your style of writing a lot - very easy to read and so thoughtful too. If you're interested, the post I allude to is on my blog here: (I got to your blog because of the previous poster of a comment on your blog, The Running Schlub, recommending this article to me after he read my article!)

    1. Thanks, I get a lot of my inspiration from and, I highly recommend both from a writing as well as running standpoint.