Finding Gratitude for 2020

Shawn Jenkins is an ultra runner, Chaski Coaching Resident, UESCA Certified Coach, and NFPT Certified Personal Trainer. He currently serves in the US Army at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State.

Like many of us, Shawn had a tough year but took some time to reflect on not only the challenges, but some of the things for which he was most grateful.

What a crazy year it has been. For me, 2020 definitely presented some challenges, as it did for so many, but was it all bad? At first I thought so, but after some recent reflection, I really feel that my perspective has changed. In the Army, we learn and practice several resilience skills. One of them is called ‘Hunt the Good Stuff’. As its name implies, it means to look for positive things happening in your life. I would like to take a moment to share some of those from this year with you.

1. I became a certified running coach

When COVID hit hard in the spring, I was feeling kind of lost, not knowing what to do with my time and energy. Sure, being a dad and husband kept me occupied, which are of great importance to me, as well as my own running. But with things at work grinding to a nearly complete halt, I had extra time on my hands that I didn’t know what to do with. I had pondered the idea of being a running coach someday when my Army career comes to an end, so I figured I could at least take a good first step and try to get a coaching certification. I chose the Running Coach Certification through the United Endurance Sports Coaching Academy (UESCA). After almost two months of studying, taking practice exams, and more studying, I took the certification and passed with flying colors!

2. I became a Certified Personal Trainer too

Riding on the emotional high of attaining my running coach certification, I was hungry for more. So, I decided to pursue another certification that I believe will also be helpful in the future. I earned a personal trainer certification through the National Federation of Personal Trainers (NFPT). This is important to me because I will be able to help runners and Soldiers with their strength goals as well as running goals. The best part was that because I am a Master Fitness Trainer in the Army, they paid for it!

3. I got to see some amazing places

After the initial wave of COVID subsided, restrictions began to lift, and I found myself back to work. My job in the Army requires me to travel on a regular basis. I spent two weeks in Colorado Springs and the scenery I got to see was nothing short of breathtaking. My favorite place for a run with great views was Garden of the Gods. I would give a lot to go back there again. I also summited Mount Rosa, which is an 11,000-foot peak. And talk about a plethora of trails -- ! I never got bored running there.

In November, my travels took me to Phoenix, AZ. Some may not see much beauty in the desert, and I didn’t think I would be impressed either, but I was wrong. It turns out I love it there! I find the air so much easier to breathe. I would probably have to buy stock in a sunscreen company if I lived there, though. The general feel of the trails is like nothing I have ever experienced. I love the way many of them seem to gently rise, fall, and flow with the land. They feel as though they always belonged, rather than being created by people.

4. The most important thing of all

Despite all that has happened in 2020, there are a few good things that stand out above the rest. I’M STILL HERE! Not only that, so are my wife and children. We all have our health, and we are financial stable. I know many others haven’t been so lucky. Many have lost friends and loved ones. Many are hurting right now. If you are one of those people, I really hope you’ve read up to this point, because I have a message for you:

Don’t give up! Keep hunting the good stuff! Start a daily gratitude practice. Even in these tough times, the world is still a beautiful place. A place full of great people, even if that is difficult to see sometimes. And 2021 is a new year and one that just might be the opposite of 2020. A year when healing takes place. A year when pain subsides, giving way to joy. A year when people become united instead of divided.

I have faith that 2021 can be that type of year, and I hope you do too.