I know I’ve written about this before, but since it’s such an integral part of my running plans, it bears repeating.

January is a key month for my entire year’s running. Although I’m slogging through some base miles, I’m not really training for anything in particular right now. Due to family, work, and other obligations, I rarely race in the winter months.

The name of the month, “January,” is a key to this important time of the year. January is named after the Roman god Janus, the god of gates and doors. He was the patron of endings and beginnings. Accordingly, Janus had two faces, one looking forward and the other backward.

In January, we pass from one year, through a gate or door, to the next. Janus reminds us of the opportunities to assess our running, looking back where we went last year and looking forward where we want to go this year.

I relish the month. It’s fun to rehash the past year’s training and races, to recall the memories and friends I saw. And, it’s equally exciting to map out goals for the coming twelve months.

Looking backward, we can take stock of our running successes and failures. What worked and what didn’t in training, racing, weight loss, etc.? What races and workouts did we enjoy? What led to problems, such as excessive fatigue or injuries? Did last year’s running lead to improvement or fun, to help us meet the goals mapped out last January? In other words, what parts of our running do we want to repeat?

Looking forward, many opportunities await exploration. We want to keep doing the good things, but, to keep running from becoming stale, to explore fresh possibilities and experiences. What is in store for 2009: trail running? cross country or track races? group runs? faster times? weight loss? cycling? a marathon or triathlon? The options are limitless and January is a good month to think about them and make plans.
One of my favorite January activities is to plan races for the coming year. I make a calendar, month by month, and then scour RunMichigan.com, Michigan Runner, and the national magazines to find races of potential interest. Of course, I include my favorite ones from previous years, too.

I usually start with old friends, races like the Crim, Big Bird, and Oak Apple (that I annually run with my blind buddy, Michael Holmes) that I’ve run for years and would be lost without. New favorites, such as the West Bloomfield Rock and Road, are included. I’ll add some races I’ve always wanted to do, but for some reason haven’t. I’ll look for races I haven’t done for a while so I can compare the Ron of 2009 with the Ron of yesteryear. Local races, practically in the backyard, will be added. Karen will tell me when we’re going to visit Matt in Las Vegas or relatives in other cities and I’ll search for races then and there, just in case. And, not to be forgotten, I’ll go looking for those races that beat me up last year, like the Brooksie Way, and highlight them on my calendar, to get even!

When done and throughout the year, I’ll find conflicts with family, travel, work, and races on the same days. I won’t do all of the events on my calendar, but hope to run a dozen or more. Several races will be keys and training will be geared to them.

As much as I enjoy planning out the year, I know it’s best to remain flexible, to account for contingencies that will no doubt arise. When they do, I’ll adjust with alternatives I’ve mapped out. One goal I hope doesn’t get sidetracked (again!) is dropping about 10-15 pounds.

Despite the economic and political climate, I’m looking forward to 2009—a third grandchild, a new age-group, that weight loss, and more. I’m glad Janus has given us the opportunity each year to look forward and backward.