It’s been a little more than a week since I ran my first Market to Market Relay with a group of my colleagues at Iowa Farm Bureau. This is a 75-mile race from Jefferson to downtown Des Moines, with each team member running multiple sections along the trail. For someone like me who is newer to running, I won’t lie, it was tough. But running 10 miles in one day gave me plenty of time to reflect and realize running is a lot like farming.
First, each person on our FARMSTRONG team had different methods of running. Some chose to use music for motivation while others simply liked listening to the sounds around them. We had different ways to warm up, hydrate and fuel our bodies, and we each had our own form and stride. Like farming, there were various ways in which we performed, and we did what was best for us. Farming is not a one-size-fits-all, either. Each field has its own unique landscape and challenges, and farmers have a mixed bag of tools to plant crops, raise livestock and improve water quality.
However, we did each ask one another for tips that could help improve our run, and as each of us handed our tracker to the next runner, we flooded one another with encouragement. Farmers also rely on peer networks and support systems. Field days, ag coffees and Young Farmer programs help connect farmers so they can share their experiences when it comes to adopting new practices like cover crops and new technologies. And having a family to be there for the journey, even if it’s just to take a break or grab a quick bite to eat with, can give anyone the push they need to hang in there until the ‘finish’ line.
That’s the thing about running and farming. They are both tiring—mentally and physically. It’s repetitive work, and farmers and runners spend a lot of time in their own heads. Just you and the open road or field ahead. It’s also hard on your body. Pounding the pavement and continuously urging your legs to move can equate to loading up 60 pound bags of seed corn, repairing fences, tending to livestock and yes, even sitting in a tractor cab for hours on end is tough on the body.
Running and farming require a great amount of endurance. For runners that endurance comes in the form of steps, miles and overcoming that huge hill on your route. For farmers though, ‘endurance’ takes on a different meaning. It comes in the form of moving forward when the weather or markets work against you, when equipment breaks down, when sadly calves don’t make it through the night despite best efforts to keep them alive, and sometimes it even means having the courage to speak up for yourself and your fellow farmers when the time is right. Yes, farmers have the endurance to keep going during rough times.
The next time I’m out running, and I think I can’t take another step, I’ll think back on our FARMSTRONG team and the real strength of Iowa’s farmers. We’re getting to the finish line together, by continuing to tirelessly put one foot in front of the other.
By Caitlyn Lamm. Caitlyn is Iowa Farm Bureau's public relations specialist.