On a recent trip to Portland OR, I fell in love with running. Again. This happens every so often, and every time it does I am reminded of how lucky I am to be able to run at all, much less with my whole spirit. In a world full of deadlines and splits and mounting to-do lists, having something you love to do — truly love to do — being a daily part of your life is a true blessing.
The Morning Started Simply Enough…
I woke up early thanks to my internal East Coast clock. I fired up my Garmin, uploaded a route I had planned on my computer, and took off at 6:00am from my hotel in the middle of downtown. After a few wrong turns, I found my path and was soon heading out of the city.
It was so early I was alone on the roads. I saw the river flowing beneath me, I could hear the bridge absorbing my footstrikes. My feet found the new path stretching out along the riverbanks. My ears picked up the regular intervals of my watch’s autolap feature, helping me stay even on my pacing.
…But I Could Tell It Was Special
All the signs were there for me. I wasn’t running mentally; my body was just doing it. I was free to absorb my surroundings while my feet sought the path and my other senses guided me down the road safely. Without warning, I suddenly found myself “inside” my own run, alive in the moment.
Rejuvenated, I flew through a scenic 15 mile run in seemingly effortless fashion, taking in everything that was around me. I positively buzzed for the next few hours and now, a whole day later, am convinced there are still some happy endorphins zipping about my body.
Running With Love Is Like A 3D Picture
Remember those ridiculous three dimensional puzzle images that were the rage in the early 90s? You konw, the ones with the crazy patterns that if you looked at them just right, for just long enough, you could unlock the hidden 3D picture?
They were the bane of my existence…I could sit in waiting rooms for hours trying to get them right. Sometimes I wondered if a depraved graphic designer had just published a random jumble to see how long folks would stare at it. But I digress.
Maybe it was a bunny. Maybe it was a rollercoaster. Sometimes it was a smiley face. But whatever you saw, you couldn’t shift your eyes to look right at it — that would only force you to lose perspective and ruin the moment. Instead, you had to almost use your peripheral vision to explore this tiny little space you had managed to get into.
How Can You Run With Love?
While there’s no real “one” way to achieve this magical run state. there are definitely some common threads that I think are a part of all of my special runs. I list them below in the hope that they help you, just remember your own mileage may vary.
#1 — Remove All Expectations
For all intents and purposes, I should have had a miserable run. I had spend 14 hours travelling the day before, meaning cramped quarters, bad food, and dehydration. I was in a new city. I ate dinner at 1am my time and even had two beers. I went to bed dreading the morning but resolved to get it done.
Every once in a while, ditch your planned run for just “a” run. Even when you don’t feel like it. Get the shoes laced up and get out the door…let the run find you.
#2 — Focus On Feel
During these magical runs, my watch is a recorder and not a taskmaster. Instead of focusing on how fast I am getting to where I am going, I spend these runs focusing on being physically present in the space I am in. The sights and smells and sounds of my environment occupy my mind, and little else.
If you can’t “turn off” your desire to calculate, it might be worth your while to simply leave your watch on the table by the door.
#3 — The Element of Surprise
Some people love to treat themselves to dessert, or a new pair of shoes or maybe a gadget. My personal gifts are runs in brand new places. While I hate traveling because it takes me away from my family, I can’t deny how much personal enjoyment I get from exploring entirely new terrain. It’s like getting a Christmas present in the middle of the summer — totally unexpected and therefore totally awesome.
If travel isn’t in your future, take some time to view your local area from a bird’s eye view by using a Google Map or by seeing what other people around you like to run (MapMyRun.com). Sometimes even just running your regular route in reverse is enough to shake your routine.
#4 — Be A Curator
Like those crazy 3D images, a special run can be ruined if you start celebrating how special it is. Or maybe you start checking the watch to see just how fast you are running. Or maybe you start chasing benchmarks like other runners. Resist the urge to measure yourself and instead place your focus on cataloguing all the things that are a part of this experience.
On my latest run, I found hidden ponds, paddling ducks, swaying bridges, Homer Simpson safety signs, an amusement park, a beautiful restored train, 17 very happy dogs with owners, a fresh pile of cedar mulch, a spectacular pedestrian bridge, and one very boss fixed gear bike with a belt drive. And I ripped it up, but that’s besides the point…I’ll always have the numbers on the dial but my watch will never record everything else. That’s up to me.
What About You?
When was the last time you Ran With Love? What did you see? Feel? Experience? How do you get into that zone? If you want to share in the comments below, I think we can all benefit. Thanks!