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2020 in the Eyes of Nolan Zimmer

  •  What words come to mind when you think of the year 2020?

As a language arts teacher, I probably spent way too much time pondering this question.  There are a variety of words that could describe a year unlike any other.  However, the ones that immediately strike me include the following:  adversity, perseverance, consistency, unconditional love, and balance.  Each of these words means something different to everyone, but I really learned what they mean in my life during 2020. 

  •  What have been your greatest successes this year?

Despite Covid and its many restrictions trying to get in the way, I was able to marry a beautiful, hard-working woman.  Being able to stand at the altar with Miranda, alongside our closest friends and family, was nothing short of my greatest success this year.  I would also include the flexibility myself, and thousands of other teachers have shown with in-person and virtual learning.  In regards to running, being able to surpass 4,000 miles for the year is something I take pride in.  My highest mileage year coming into 2020, was just over 3,600 miles in 2019.  Granted that increase is partially thanks to having more time at home and what not, however you still have to get your ass out the door. 

  •  What have been your biggest challenges this year?

I have to say that running for all these years before 2020 paid off big time when it came to dealing with challenges.  Challenges like teaching via Zoom, students quarantining, and planning a wedding stand out as the toughest.  However, as a runner, you face adversity every day.  Every day we fight against the voice inside our mind that says, “Sleep in!” or “I’m exhausted, I don’t need to run today,” or “It’s freezing and windy, don’t go out there.”  We are constantly battling that voice.  That doesn’t even include the battles we face outside of our minds.  Adversity is everywhere and we must accept it for what it is.  That’s exactly what 2020 showed us.  This world does not care about our plans and feelings.  We accept, evaluate, and move on because that is the only choice we have towards the path of success. 

  •  During a year where racing has taken a back seat, talk about what running has looked like for you over the last several months.

It stunk immensely to see so many races cancelled throughout this year.  I have my yearly staples, including Shamrock Shuffle 8k, Grandmas Half Marathon, Living History Farms, and USATF Club Cross Country Championships.  Although I was able to compete in a few last minute decision races, creativity came into play this year when it came to the hard efforts.  Fortunately, we have a solid core group of men in the Omaha and Lincoln area.   This allowed for us to put our minds together and arrange a variety of time trials at local tracks and Two Rivers State Park.  Throughout the summer, we met at Two Rivers on a few different occasions for some 5k’s and a 10k.  If we’re talking personal bests, there weren’t many.  However, a couple of the highlights include continuing my streak of breaking 15 minutes in the 5k, which I was able to do both on the track and the roads.  I also remember our summer 10k time trial at Two Rivers specifically because it was so humid that morning.  It was a bunch of dudes working together and pushing each other.  The times were sort of irrelevant that day, but we loved being able to suffer together.    

  • Have you been doing primarily solo running or have you been able to meet up with people?

As has been the case for the last few years, 90% of my running is solo.  Being a teacher and coach means I have to be a little creative with squeezing in my own runs, especially Monday-Friday.  The summers are a little different story and allow for more group runs and a little bit more sleeping in, but not much!  You still want to beat the heat!  During the school year my day typically begins with a 5:00 AM alarm and getting out the door around 5:20 AM for 8 miles.  I will usually double after school/practice 3-4 times a week.  I have been averaging 80 mile weeks for a good majority of this year.  I set out the goal of surpassing 4,000 miles this year and wanted to remain consistent with the mileage.  The weekends typically consist of a small group long run somewhere in or around Omaha with the boys.  Those long runs are often my only run with other people.  I know I’m definitely not alone on that. 

  • What are some things about running that 2020 has made you appreciate more?

I have talked about this with some of the guys on our many long runs together.  I have also had conversations with my wife, who has taken up running within the last year and is already showing great progress for never doing it before.  The best thing, in my opinion, that running offers is a sense of purpose and a calming nature at all times.  I like to think that I have always been a level headed individual.  There is no doubt that running humbles me mentally and physically.  Because of this process, I have gained a better understanding of what truly matters in life and how to let go of petty bullshit.  I can’t remember a year where outrage and hatred has been more prevalent in this country.  However, I also can’t recall a time when being a strong-willed, tough SOB paid off more than now.  I am constantly reminded by all of the people on our team, and the many other runners I’ve met over the years, that buying into the process pays off in the long term.  I’ll be honest, there were so many moments this year where I would stop, evaluate the situation, and say, “I wonder how that would’ve gone down if that person ran or exercised today.”  I have a hard time believing that we have that big of a political divide in our country, and all of the other issues that get thrown in our face by the media.  I have to think that so many of people’s problems could be proactively faced with lacing up the shoes and getting out the door for a walk or run every day.  I truly believe that moving the body often and seeking discomfort could do damn wonders for this world.  It’s really hard to be in a horrible mood when you have endorphins flying every day and you build a sense of community in the process.      

  • This year has required many of us to be home, instead of out and about doing normal things.  How have you spent some of that extra time?

As unfortunate of timing that it was for Covid to hit our country, I tried to make some positives out of the situation.  In March, which was right when things began to shut down, my wife and I moved into a house together.  Having that extra time home, doing eLearning, allowed for us to really unpack and settle in slowly.  Running aside, I enjoyed that long, slow days by reading new books and listening to a variety of sports and comedy podcasts.  It’s also very easy for me to go down an interesting YouTube rabbit hole where I end up asking myself, “How did I end up watching The Top 10 Daniel Day-Lewis Performances?”  I really do enjoy chilling at home with coffee, cracking a book, and following along with my friends running.    

  • In an era where there is a lot of information moving quickly at all times, how do you stay grounded in your beliefs?

First and foremost, I try and surround myself with people who are like-minded and positive.  I don’t necessarily mean like-minded in regards to religious or political beliefs, rather like-minded in the sense of how to be a respectable human being.  I like to think I have surrounded myself with awesome humans over the years, who have undoubtedly made me a better person.  I hope I have done the same for them.  Another

way I stay grounded is by reading often.  Whether it’s books, articles, or tweets, I try and seek out new information that I know is reliable, tested, and will make me see the world in a different light.  Imagine if more people took time to read about history, aside from history books, politics aside from social media, and religion aside from one really old book.      

  • Who have you relied on the most this year for inspiration?

I’d probably get in trouble if I didn’t say my wife for this answer, however, it’s so true.  Miranda is a remarkably kind human being, who oftentimes puts others before herself.  Whether it’s the many hours she puts in at Omaha Children’s hospital or looking after myself or our friends, she is selfless and compassionate.  Her many positive qualities are what attracted me to her in the first place. 

I also rely on my teammates.  The brothers of the grind as I call them.  Even if it’s people I hardly get to run or race with, the world of social media and Strava allows for us all to take inspiration in different ways.  I look at my fellow brothers and sisters of the grind, how they handle their daily business, and face adversity.  To be honest, if you’re reading this, chances are you have inspired me in some way shape or form.  If I’ve shared a run, race, or road trip with you, I say thank you! 

  • What is your biggest hope for 2021?

I’ll keep this one brief.  My hope for the new year is that more people conquer their inner bitch, treat others with kindness and empathy, and we can laugh more.  And to that, we can all say, “Amen!”  Cheers guys. 

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