How I Found My ‘Mountain’ and Started Climbing

Pursuing passion for the sheer joy of it

Robert Roy Britt

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This past Saturday, I ran a trail-based half-marathon. It was hard! And incredibly motivational. I want to share the experience not because you necessarily should run such a race, or even jog at all, but because I believe strongly that we all need to find our own personal mountain — a real or metaphorical, physical or mental or relational pursuit that we find meaningful — and climb the hell out of it.

That, my friends, is the surest path to happiness, science says (OK, I paraphrased the science a bit, but you get the idea).

I fell only once on the rocky trail, but the blood (and sweat) was worth it.

The race was in the White Tank Mountains outside Phoenix. Narrow, rocky trails. Some 1,700 feet of elevation gain. This would be much harder than a typical half-marathon. And I hadn’t run this far since doing my one and only marathon in 1986.

A little backstory: I’d stopped running altogether in my late 40s due to back and hip pain. It’s frustrating, even demoralizing, when you can’t do the thing you love.

Then about two years ago I discovered yoga, which helped stretch and strengthen my whole body — a veritable physical makeover. I began mountain biking again, another passion I’d dropped. Then, as I was preparing to mountain bike 60 miles on my 60th birthday — a stretch goal that was monumentally challenging but doable — I delved into the actual science of all this metaphorical mountain climbing: how to make the commitment, set goals and achieve them, and the physical and mental benefits that result.

Surprisingly last summer, after turning 60, I found I could run again, almost entirely without pain. Honestly, it was like rediscovering chocolate or sex after years of abstinence. (Thank you, yoga.)

Of course at my age, I’d never run as fast as I did in my 20s or 30s or even my 40s. That can be damn frustrating.

I needed a different sort of challenge so I could set new, achievable goals doing something I’d never done before, so there’d be no comparison of my progress to youthful performance.

I found it in the mountains, literally. Thanks to…

Last fall, our youngest son entered his first race and encouraged me to do it. A simple 5k on…

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Robert Roy Britt

Editor of Aha! and Wise & Well on Medium + the Writer's Guide at writersguide.substack.com. Author of Make Sleep Your Superpower: amazon.com/dp/B0BJBYFQCB