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Roughly about a year ago at this time, I made a quick game plan to tackle a list of objectives. I wanted to complete as many of the things on the list as I could before the end of 2020. Call it a sort of New Year’s resolution that got declared a bit late.

The list contained a number of goals for myself with several of them falling in the sports and fitness realm, including running a 5K time closer to what I used to run in high school than what I have typically run over the past few years.

It also left me a solid roadmap to eat better, spend more time with family and maybe finally finish one of the many novels I’ve been working on for what seems like a decade.

A lot of this list popped into my head in February not long before my grandmother passed and I traveled to Florida to celebrate a good friends’ wedding.

Part of the reason I penned the original list lay in my age. At the time, I was 47 and growing ever closer to 48. The magic 50 is appearing closer and closer to me, and I’ve often heard that runners begin slowing down a bit at that age.

Or at least, maintaining running speed becomes much harder at that age.

Call it bad luck, fate or some crazy circumstance, but COVID set in a few weeks later and many of my plans got upended. I will say my wife did whip my butt into shape, forcing me to run and exercise with her. I did start to see my running form come back and my fitness improve.

But COVID got in the way in the fall with a quarantine and then an injury to boot, knocking my training for a loop and smashing a good many of those plans.

So here we are again. I’m now 48, COVID still has its claws in all of us and my list from last year sits mostly unfulfilled. Somehow 50 is now even closer. But something else transpired over the past 12 to 16 months that now spurs me on even more.

I lost two grandmothers and a great aunt and while I’ve been lucky to not have COVID immediately impact myself or my family, I know countless others who have been impacted. Too many times I’ve find myself putting things off, because I can wait and do them tomorrow.

Not registering for a certain road race or maybe skipping a soccer practice or game. Each time I’ll say with certainty that I’ll run in the next race or be at the next practice. But now, I can’t say with certainty what the next race will be. I tried my darndest to attend every one of my daughter’s travel team practices, and I was on the sideline for all the games. In all honesty, I still can’t believe we managed to get in the entire season.

My daughter and her high school teammates had watch a very promising season cut short last year. I had to attend my grandmother’s funeral two weeks before the big 100th birthday party planned for her. Those things are drastically different, but illustrate a similar point.

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We aren’t guaranteed anything, and life can take some weird, crazy turns when we least expect it. So my list this year includes my goals to train to run faster and make myself stronger. It also includes my want to finish at least one of my books and get it into good enough shape to allow publishers to tell me I’m not talented enough to be a novelist.

What I do plan to do is try to control what I can. Make time to do the important things and chase the dreams I do have. I have no doubt COVID will continue to wreak havoc with everything, but I can keep it from derailing some of my list.

I remember a certain workout at Auburn one day. My coach had us running hard over the course of several miles, varying our intensity from 80 to 60 percent of full effort. For some reason, I didn’t have it in me that day, and I struggled through the workout, looked terrible and finished dead last, but I finished.

Being a walk on I could be asked to leave the team at any time, and a big part of me feared I had just sealed my fate and that would be my last time running with the team. Coach took a look at me, shook his head a bit and smiled.

“You’ll get more out of that workout than you would have gotten if you had finished first.”

He walked away. I breathed a sigh of relief. I was still on the team. And as always, my coach was right.

I feel like this past year has resembled that day in many ways. I’ve made it through, the slogging tough parts and learned quite a bit about myself. I wish it hadn’t been so hard, but maybe by going through it I’ll appreciate everything as bit more.

And now my list awaits.

An injury while running at Auburn ended Jim Alred’s long-shot hopes of possibly competing in the Olympics, so he turned to writing and has been crafting award-winning stories across multiple mediums ever since. Along the way he’s been chased by a grizzly bear, worked as Goofy at Walt Disney World, been nominated for two Emmys, interviewed celebrities like Tiger Woods, Bo Jackson, Bill Clinton, coaches his daughters in cross country and soccer and can often be found running with his wife, Tara, around Rome.