Thanksgiving is always a time for us to look a back and reflect fondly on the year, but let’s just be honest about this – 2020 has been a tough year on a lot of levels. It would be easy to fall into the trap of looking back with disappointment on what we didn’t have or didn’t get to do. The list, just from XC, would be long (team dinners, Base Camp, meets that were cancelled, our traditional end of season banquet – the one time of year I get to eat KFC! our post season trip to Sioux Falls, SD for the NXR meet…). Obviously, it extends beyond that to bigger and more important things in life like family holiday traditions/gatherings that are having to be set aside this year. While it is tempting to focus on compiling a list of things we have missed and/or are missing out on, it’s a soul sucking endeavor. The act of doing that diminishes what we do have so instead I’d like to provide you with some encouragement. I’d like to challenge you instead, in the midst of all of this to focus on the many blessing we have experienced this year.

I am thankful that even with some pretty big changes and challenges in how we went about things, we did have a Cross Country season this fall. That was doubtful at times. Many days XC felt like the most normal thing I did, and it created a sense of normalcy that was hard to find in other arenas of our lives. I’m thankful for the assistant coaches I got to partner with in the chaos of this unpredictable season. I’m thankful for parents on this team, who a) supported us throughout the season even if that support might not have been as visible as usual and b) raised some great kids that we got to know and coach this summer and fall.

Being reflective is something I have to work hard to make myself do because my natural inclination is to always be thinking a step or two ahead of where I am. I guess as a runner that’s what you’re supposed to do – keep your eyes on the horizon. It never takes me too long at the end of one season to start thinking about/planning for the next one. That’s got its positives, but when that’s your approach to life it’s easy to miss important lessons without ever looking back, like the fact that we can do hard things. As I look ahead, I’d like to think that many of those hard things that made this season so challenging are behind us, but we all know that isn’t true.

Spring Track season or next fall’s XC season could still be affected. More immediately than that, though, Thanksgiving week and the 2020 holiday season is upon us and like it or not this will most likely be a significantly different year for most of us in terms of how we celebrate those events. I don’t know what your family traditions are around the holidays, but if you’re like my family, there are probably things you won’t be able to do this season, places you won’t be able to go and more significantly people you won’t be able to see/be with.

In our home, I try to make a big deal about the celebration of Advent between Thanksgiving and Christmas each year. I’m sure many of you grew up having some type of calendar or way of counting down the days to Christmas in December. This is a piece what Advent is about but there’s more to it than that. The word advent is literally defined as the “coming or beginning of something big or momentous” and the weeks leading up to Christmas are meant to prepare us for that.

In much the same way as our normal holiday traditions are being upset by what’s going on in our world right now, or normal build up for track season is also being disrupted. We’ve already been told we can’t begin off-season conditioning for the spring Track (the “advent of Track” if you will) after Thanksgiving like we typically would… but that doesn’t mean we can’t do – it’s just going to look different. What I’m proposing is a new (to you) tradition of a Holiday Season Running Streak (read more here –A SEASON TO STREAK) for our team that will in effect help to get us ready for the 2021 Track season

For now, I’d recommend starting to get some runs in on your own if you’ve taken a break. Wake up your body, your mind and your spirit. Help them remember what it feels like to run and how blessed we are to be able to do that. Run with a thankful heart. Then on Monday, November 30 at 3pm we’ll get together on WebEx to talk about the logistics of preparing for what’s next (Don’t be a turkey – be there!).

With thanks in my heart for who you all are and what you mean to me and my family,

Coach Onnen