Mountain Thoughts: The Currency of Time

By francescaconte on July 06, 2023

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The real currency is having time. The day I understood that the real currency of my life is not money but time, I won the lottery.

Fortunately and unfortunately, I experienced loss early in life. The fortunate part of this was the sudden and deep realization that life is much shorter than expected and that the real richness is not having money, but having time to do the things I love to do.

For me, the one thing I love to do is running in the outdoors, in the mountains and around the world.  I have a PhD in Biology and spent many years doing research, which I enjoyed because of the intellectual pursuit and stimulation. However, the reality was I spent countless hours wishing I could be outside.

An alpine lake in Va Senales, Italy

On snowy days, I would look out the large windows of the lab and long for the outdoors, for the smell of the snow and the cold feeling of flakes falling on my face. I thought my lack of full commitment to a life in the lab was laziness; it was, instead, a search for something that would make me truly happy.

Francesca gazes at the Ortler in the Italian Alps[/caption]

Therefore, I based my future on these simple principles:

  • The more time I could spend in the mountains, the better.
  • Being outside was always better than being inside.
  • I would find a job I loved and that gave me enough money and free time to pursue the activities I loved. For me, that was directing running races.
  • I would eliminate debt whenever possible.
  • I would understand what makes me happy and embrace it, even though it was not always the most popular choice.
  • The love I felt for the mountains was very similar to the love I felt for family. Now that I have only a few family members left, the mountains have become my family.
  • I would not have children. I know this is not popular, but, for me, it works.
  • I would not spend my life working for retirement so I could look forward to playing in my older age.  I would do anything I could do play in my younger age.
  • Whenever possible, I would avoid the office or the lab.
  • Choices are very important, and I would make each one very carefully.
  • The most important thing is my health and I don’t underestimate the importance of being healthy. I would do anything I could to remain healthy.
  • You can only have a very few real friends.
  • Being scared does not mean you don’t have the courage to go for it.

Francesca and friends pose for a post-run picture

I have been incredibly lucky to enjoy many years of training, running and racing in some of the most beautiful places in the world. I don’t underestimate luck, but I don’t underestimate the power of making the right choices either.


When I was 13, I saw a German movie called Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo.  It was a very powerful and graphic movie based on a true story about being a teenager, falling in love with the wrong person and becoming a drug addict. It illustrated the life-changing power of wrong choices.

Often times, what society or the people around you are doing might not be the best thing for you. It is not wrong to embrace your differences and follow those, if they make you happy.


Francesca Conte is a professional runner, race director, and co-founder of Bad to the Bone Endurance Sports. She has won numerous 50K, 50 mile and 100 mile races. Born in Italy amidst the Alps, Francesca calls the mountains home and now splits her time between Virginia and Colorado.



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