I remember a time when running was simple — when I ran purely for the joy of running, even though I was slow (so, so slow — 12 minute miles slow). A time when I didn’t care about splits or pace or heart rate.
I remember when I used to wake up in the mornings, lace up my sneakers and head out my parents’ front door to log the miles I needed to train for my first marathon before leaving to head to my first full-time summer internship.
I remember spending Friday evenings driving around in my car down long and windy country roads, watching the trip counter so I could plan a route for the next day’s long run because I didn’t have a Garmin and I had never heard of MapMyRun (it may not even have existed back then).
I remember waking up early to go on said long runs, scarfing a peanut butter PowerBar and grabbing a lemon-lime Gatorade out of the fridge to carry in my hand. (Not in a fancy water bottle with a nice hand strap or something).
I remember my mom warning to me to watch out for skunks because in the country those are problems you might have in the pre-dawn hours.
Running was simple back then.
When I was training for my first marathon, I was so proud every time I finished a long run, hit a new distance or maybe ran a tiny bit faster.
Somewhere in the last eight years, I lost the simplicity and the joy of just running. I started taking distance running for granted. A 10 miler wasn’t anything special, it was just another item I had to check off my really long to-do list.
I struggled to find routes I loved in the city. I missed my open windy country roads with pretty scenery. There’s a freedom to those roads that I just don’t feel dodging angry drivers in DC.
So running lost some of its glitz and shine. What used to be my stress relieving “me time” started becoming an uninspired chore.
I wasn’t running fast enough, long enough, hard enough. My times weren’t improving, I was sidelined with injuries. I was running on routes I hated.
And all this really hit me when I was home in PA for Easter. I went out for two runs while I was there on those same windy country roads that I logged miles and miles on while training for my first marathon.
I had no Garmin, no fancy gear and I felt the biggest sense of freedom in my running that I had in a long, long time. I didn’t care about pace or time or even really distance.
It felt like I was a newbie runner again, experiencing the simple joys of feeling my legs moving, my heart pumping, my lungs enjoying the clean, fresh country air.
I felt free.
And now that I’m back in DC, I’ve been trying to find ways to replicate that here. No I don’t have beautiful country roads, but there are some nice trails, and you really can’t beat the views of some of the monuments. I’ve been leaving Garmin at home, not worrying about pace or time.
Right now, I’m just trying to rediscover that simple joy and freedom I used to get from lacing up my shoes and heading out the front door.
I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to find it in DC the way I can so easily find it in wide open spaces, but I can certainly try.