The Best Runs You Took in 2022
A great pleasure of being an international sportswriter is exploring the world through running. I do some museums and historical sites, but I really get to know a place by running all over it.
In July, I was covering Wimbledon, which means both great tennis and epic morning runs along the River Thames. I was staying in Chiswick, in west London, where, on the bank of the river, the trail becomes downright bucolic. Running west on the mostly dirt and rock trail next to the river, through a tunnellike canopy of trees in the cool London summer air. I kept going and going, through the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, and all the way to Richmond (Ted Lasso country!!) where leafy hills rise above the water.
I crossed the bridge over to Twickenham and began making my way back east, filled with the thrill that comes from knowing I was both running and having what those great characters of British literature, Winnie the Pooh and his good friend Christopher Robin, called an “explore.”
And when it was over, after about 15 miles and a couple hours, there was some tennis to take in.
We asked you to share the best runs you took over the past 12 months. Here are some of our favorites.
Submissions have been edited for clarity and length.
Engaged at the Top of a Mountain
My partner, Marc Elosua Bayés, and I love to run, especially in the mountains. This was our third time at the mountain Matagalls, in Catalonia where Marc is from, and our second attempt at running it. Matagalls is beautiful and also steep and challenging. Early on Oct. 28 we ran up — it took about an hour. It was pitch black when we started with headlamps on, and the sun rose as we got to the top. Marc started fidgeting with his backpack and pulled out a granola bar. He offered it, but I said no. Then he reached back in and pulled out a ring and asked me to marry him. It was just us and the sheep. We ran the whole way down the mountain cheering.
— Hayley Arader, 28, Brooklyn, N.Y.
An Exhausting 33 Minutes
I have always wanted to run an Ironman, so this year, at 5 a.m. on my 16th birthday, I went out to run 5K through the streets of my neighborhood in Greenwich, Conn., a very hilly town. Even in October, the morning was pitch black. This first loop was about a mile with a gentle downhill to start and a demanding uphill at the end. It was not a glorious run. I had to stop three times, was out of breath the entire time and stumbled to the finish line after 33 grueling minutes. However, after that run, nothing was going to stop me from completing my goal. Even though I still have a few weeks to go in my training program, I feel confident in myself, and I know I will keep going. I have learned to love running in the morning, with its peace and the unity I feel with nature. Those exhausting 33 minutes put me on the path to understanding and caring for my body.
— Lindsay Taylor, 16, Greenwich, Conn.
After a Baby, a Victory Lap
It was my first run after having a baby. Just a rectangle around my neighborhood that I use to walk my dog when she just needs a short outing. I’m normally fairly active and have been running since I was 14. This pregnancy was rough, and even though I was dying to move my body, I simply could not. So about eight weeks postpartum, I laced up my shoes and took a victory lap for a mile around my neighborhood. It wasn’t fast, but damn it felt good.
— Michelle Garcia, 37, New Jersey
Coping With Grief and Loss
Living through the loss of a loved one is a universal experience. But the ways in which we experience and deal with the pain can largely differ.
- What Experts Say: Psychotherapists say that grief is not a problem to be solved, but a process to be lived through, in whatever form it may take.
- How to Help: Experiencing a sudden loss can be particularly traumatic. Here are some ways to offer your support to someone grieving.
- A New Diagnosis: Prolonged grief disorder, a new entry in the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic manual, applies to those who continue to struggle long after a loss.
- The Biology of Grief: Grief isn’t only a psychological experience. It can affect the body too, but much about the effects remains a mystery.
Solitude on the Bourbon Trail
I found running bliss alone on a backcountry road in Kentucky at 4 o’clock in the morning. I was doing my first Ragnar Bourbon Chase, a two-day, 200-mile team relay dotted with distilleries along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. On my second leg, a 9.5-mile stretch of choppy, hilly country road, everything just clicked. After shuttling around in a van for over a day and a night with good friends on the 12-runner team as we all took our turn, I was feeling good and rolling at a decent pace. There were other events of the year that I raced much better, but this was joyous, just for the pleasure of running.
— Cliff Hamal, 64, Arlington, Va.
Running in Grief and Love
In January, it had been three weeks since my mom unexpectedly died. I anticipated feeling wild grief but instead felt numb. My heart didn’t yet believe she was gone. I was running on trails in Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle soft with soggy leaves, edged with wet ferns, under towering conifers and ancient magnolias when I suddenly felt my mom’s presence. The pain felt unbearable, and tears overflowed. She taught me that on trails and in nature, I could sort out my feelings and find peace. As I continued running, I realized I will always have that gift. In the year since her death, running hundreds of miles in my beloved Seattle, through its urban forests and unexpectedly wild parks, under redwoods and by tranquil lakes, I’ve been able to grieve and love my mom.
— Sarah Davis, 48, Seattle
A Winter Marathon Brings a Maine Town to Life
My first marathon, Dec. 3 in Millinocket, Maine, two laps of a half-marathon course, included a gravel road covered in ice for 2 to 3 miles. This is a time of year when the local economy goes into hibernation. Some years ago, the town decided to host a marathon with no entry fee. Racers are simply asked to spend money in town on lodging, meals and at local shops. The event, with about 1,800 runners this year, has a loving community vibe, despite horrible weather. Freezing cold rain started about 6 miles into the race. Then the wind picked up. It was so wet, slick and cold that halfway through I couldn’t feel my legs or feet. I was running the race partly in memory of my father, who died the previous year from pancreatic cancer. He had always dreamed of running a marathon, but it never happened for him. I was carrying his spirit with me the whole race.
— Todd Williams, 54, Camden, Maine
The Trail Belonged to Us
My most memorable run this year, a hilly trail 8,500 feet up on the Y.M.C.A. Snow Mountain property connecting to our back door in Tabernash, Colo., was memorable for its ordinariness, which is why it sticks in my memory. My dog Ozzie ran along with me, winding through aspen and cottonwoods, horse pastures and meadows of wildflowers. We’re accustomed to seeing moose or coyotes along the trail. Not even a jackrabbit appeared that run. The sun made our shadows long. We sidestepped horse droppings and rocks, roots and woodchuck holes. Ozzie’s leash was tethered to my waist belt, so he couldn’t chase the deer we often saw, but none appeared. The trail belonged to us that late summer day. Our shadows were the only things moving around us. Ozzie’s tongue hung out and I sweated profusely. There was no breeze to cool us. We carried on.
— Eric Sandstrom, 71, Tabernash, Colo.
When a Run Is a Privilege
My most memorable run of the year was Nov. 27, along the Brooklyn waterfront, through Brooklyn Bridge Park around the piers to Dumbo. I was diagnosed with breast cancer the month prior, and I knew that Sunday would be my last run before starting chemotherapy. I was acutely aware that the body’s capacity to run is in itself a privilege. I was grateful for every step that day.
— Marcella Frydman Manoharan, 41, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Letting Go of Resentment
My most memorable run this year happened in Flagstaff, Ariz. I traveled there in July to find some healing in nature after experiencing a miscarriage in May. My initial plan was to hike up and run down Humphreys Peak, the state’s highest point. However, a sudden midmorning monsoon started when I reached the summit. I ended up sliding/running down in hail, heavy rain and a steady stream of water going down the path. Being in the moment and having to focus on each step helped me feel strong again and let go of some of the resentment I felt toward my body after having a miscarriage.
Christina Keller, 30, Austin
The No. 1 Rule of Running? Have Fun.
In November, in a balmy New York City, I completed a long-term goal and ran my first marathon. The experience taught me so many lessons and reaffirmed my love of distance running. The weather on race day was hot and humid. After following my pre-race plan well through Brooklyn, in Queens (around mile 13), my body buckled under the humidity and for a dark moment in Long Island City, I considered whether I could live with myself not finishing. (The answer: I couldn’t, at least under these circumstances.) So I abandoned my pre-race time goals and leaned into soaking in the magical crowd and remembering that the joy of endurance running is completing the race. That’s the victory. The No. 1 rule of long-distance running (maybe running generally) is to have fun — a lesson I learned on my five-borough tour.
— Peter Dunphy, 26, Austin
After 59 Years, a Race
I was a distance runner in high school and college, but because of an injury I was not able to run for decades. I am now 80 years old. Last December, I had Covid and developed long Covid. Breathing was difficult, and I could not walk more than a block or two. I was frightened and decided to make a training plan. Over several months, I gradually increased my distance walking and then started to jog and then run. I entered a 5K in mid-August, around Prospect Park in Brooklyn, my first race since May 1963, 59 years ago. The only runner entered in the 80-84 age group, I came in first place in the group and won a medal, averaging 11 minutes per mile.
— Lou Howort, 80, Brooklyn, NY
An Unexpected Cheering Section
My route on Lee Hook Road runs through surrounding farmland with beautiful scenery and wildlife. I try to catch the rising sun most mornings. I often pass by the University of New Hampshire’s organic dairy farm in Lee on my daily run. This particular morning in late September, the pasturing cows headed over for a visit.
— Steven Weesner, 55, Lee, N.H.
Getting Reacquainted With a Route and Myself
There’s a trail in the mountains above Ome Station, west of suburban Tokyo. The narrow mountain road gradually becomes a single track, winding along ridgelines punctuated with steep climbs and drop-offs through a postwar cedar forest that is home to mountain goats, wild boars and giant leeches. When I was at my best as a runner I used to go there once or twice a week to do 15 kilometers out and back to the peak of Mount Raiden. I came to know every contour and curve, the roots and rocks under every step. Whatever strength I had came from those runs. But for whatever reason, it had been years since I’d been there. In November, Mika, my wife and business partner, was going out to run the trail to Raiden in prep for a January marathon. I needed to get my mind off work for a few hours and went with her. She ran on ahead of me as I took my time, and as I went deeper into the mountains it felt like rediscovering a part of myself I’d forgotten about.
— Brett Larner, 49, Tokyo
‘I’m Very Slow. But I Get it Done.’
I’m 63 years old and took up running during the pandemic. I’m very slow. But I get it done: 3.5 miles, three times a week. I was running on the East River Esplanade and enjoying the first crisp day of autumn when I ran by a young man sitting on a bench strumming his guitar. This was probably the third time I’d run past when I heard “Fitness! Hey, FITNESS!” I looked over and he gave me a thumbs-up and shouted, “Looking good!” Women of a certain age tend to disappear, never to be seen. So, being recognized for trying to better myself felt magical.
— H.K. Watts, 63, New York
Saying Goodbye to a Best Friend
I usually do long runs on the weekend, but on Sunday, Jan. 23, I had an appointment to have my beloved 12-year-old dog, Ben, euthanized at home. Waking the next morning, in a house far too quiet, I cried and pulled on running clothes for the frigid, gray day. I made my way to the Monon Trail and coaxed my body, heavy with grief and loss, into the familiar motion. Over the couple miles it took to find my rhythm, I could feel waves of grief washing over me, as my feet carried me along the cold, hard ground dusted with snow. Even as I ran, it was hard to comprehend how my heart could be strong enough to carry me very far when it was so painfully broken.
I covered 17 miles that day, letting nature speak to me: The canal clear and cold; Canada geese gliding silently in the water; a trio of crows on a barren tree by the White River, cawing to acknowledge my handsome boy’s absence. In his early years, we had tried running together, but in the end, we were both happier if I ran and then walked him. It didn’t matter how far I had run or if I had raced, we still got our walk in. I ran the Chicago Marathon in 2021, and two days later took Ben to the vet, who diagnosed my boy with a bony tumor in his rear left leg. A soaring high was followed by the deepest low, both wrapped up in running. Running and my dog have been great teachers, and I am so grateful.
— Michelle Russell, 51, Indianapolis