So often as runners, we quantify our achievements, looking at running in terms of distance and speed.
How far did you run?
How fast did you finish?
What were your splits?
When I first started running those seven fateful years ago, I barely knew how to get to the stop sign a block away without panting and grunting, let alone what any of these buzzy terms and anxiety-provoking questions had to do with anything. As far as I was concerned, “running” simply required an old t-shirt and a pair of kicks. Running sneakers? Tell it to someone who cares.
I’ve obviously come a long way since then.
I’ve joined my local running community. I’ve developed an addiction to Nike sports bras in neon colors of every kind. I’ve discovered that there is a difference between shorts meant for running and those that, well, aren’t. I’ve participated in four half marathons and, at times, considered 10 miles to be my “base.” I’ve started a blog, dedicated to this sport I call home. I’ve conquered countless running (and non-running) paths and routes around Manhattan, Brooklyn, Long Island, Queens and even where it all began–in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
I am the first to admit that there are times when running swiftly for several miles can instill a person with a sense of invincibility. Back in January, I
ran crushed the Joe Kleinerman 10k in what turned out to be, for me, an impressive time. I surprised myself and was incredibly proud of this accomplishment; there is no doubt about that. And yet, I always return to a slower way of running — a more relaxed approach to the sport.
As I ran around the lower loop of Central Park this morning, my thoughts wandered to this very idea.
Today was what we might consider a “challenging” run. After putting my all into fitness and exercise before my wedding day, I’ve adopted a
lazier less intense routine over the last few weeks, running slower and shorter, going to yoga here and there, and doing far less strength training than I had committed to previously. I know I’ll get back into the swing of things; I think this is all just a part of moderation.
Getting into the groove during today’s run was easy; the sun was shining, the sun warm, the streets less crowded than usual. It was sustaining the run that I found particularly tough. My calves ached. I was tired after a weekend of birthday indulgence (in both food and wine). And of course, we can’t overlook the fact that it’s Monday. Monday in itself is an automatic obstacle to overcome.
(Noah surprised me with tickets to see Matilda. And proceeded to buy me a birthday sippy cup of white wine at the show. Okay, maybe it was a double.)
I guess what I’m trying to say is that, despite our instincts to speed up, there is nothing wrong with utilizing running as a way to slow down. As I pondered this concept, I came up with a short list of 8 reasons to ignore your pace (here and there). After all, running is more valuable than the medals received at the end of a race. In my humble opinion, here’s why.
8. To accomplish without competition. Running is very much a competitive sport; while there are no “losers” per say, there are most certainly winners. They receive money and fame and cool pictures on social media and stuff. What makes race day so fun though isn’t the prospect of coming in first. It’s about personal achievement — and that can be defined in a ton of ways, from clocking a certain time to simply crossing the finish line without any specific intention or goal. And that’s just fine.
7. To hear the music. I’ve loved music for as long as I can remember. The first concert I went to was the Moody Blues with my mom and oldest brother, and my appreciation for the classics has only blossomed since. But it’s rare that we get to really listen to the music — the lyrics, the beats, the instrumental interludes. When running, it’s easy to focus on these nuances and to discover elements you once ignored before.
6. To listen to your breath. Breathing is something we take for granted, and running makes you really appreciate every single inhale and exhale.
5. To enjoy quiet. Even with the world around me — the noisy jackhammers on 37th street, the crowds of tourists that surround Central Park — running, for me, is silent.
4. To be in nature. It’s rare in today’s corporate-minded world to be able to soak in the sun — especially on a weekday. A routine of running ensures that you get a steady stream of fresh air, barking dogs, flowers or snow (depending on the season), and human interactions without suits and ties.
(When the sun hit the ponds today in Central Park, it almost resembled glitter. You KNOW how much I love glitter.)
3. To let go and trust your instincts. Running for distance or speed requires thought. It requires you to not only have the drive to hit targets and break records, but to be conscious of every second of every run. Let go of this leash, and you might suddenly finding yourself trusting your instincts and running like you were meant to run. The pure enjoyment is hard to beat.
2. To make your own decisions. Because you can and you should.
1. To take time for yourself. We live in a bossy (forgive me, Sheryl) world, where colleagues, friends, celebrities, journalists, family, heck even strangers are always telling us what to do. So don’t run like you’re told to run. Don’t run like you think you’re supposed to run. Slow down, and run for you.