Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Just Running for the "Time" of It

Taking it "Zen."  
When I started running back in 2001, it was little baby steps at first:  a single 3 mile loop around my subdivision.  I conscientiously got in my car and drove the loop so that I would know exactly how many miles it was - right down to a tenth of a mile.  Then I gauged my progress by how my time to cover that ground got better and better as, week by week,  I could run more and walk less.  I ran this same little route 2 or 3 times a week and then ran the weekly long slow distance runs on Saturdays with my running club.  The club did the work determining the distance.  I just had to show up and run that week's route.
Navy Pier
Chicago IL

When my running really got serious though, and the marathon training distances got longer, I had to learn how to fit it in around my work and heavy travel schedule.  When my running shoes came with me on business trips around the country and overseas I needed to break myself of that time-distance "slave master" and stop obsessing over mileage, because often I had no idea how many miles I was running, only how long I'd been on the road. 
Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA

Finding myself in a strange city, without benefit of today's GPS watches or fancy mapping software, I discovered that all I had to do was just decide how many minutes I wanted to run, head out the door, run half of that, then turn around and return to where I started.   I had been running long enough to have a pretty good idea of my pace and to know that if I ran for so many minutes, I'd have run an approximate number of miles.  It didn't have to be exact.  What a liberating concept!  Ridding myself of that "distance dictator" freed me of my obsession over mileage and pace and added joy and freedom to my running.

With this new "tool" in my running tool box, I felt confident enough to run out the front door of a hotel, start my chronometer and then just...run.  A number of running coach programs promote the concept of running for a particular length of time, not a particular distance, only focusing on distance for the once-a-week long run.  This is what USAFit advocates, and many other running programs follow their lead.
Royal Palace
Oslo, Norway

My running friend Nelson and I did these types of runs often.  He'd meet me somewhere in the city after work and we'd just run by the clock, not worrying about the distance.  We'd meet, park our cars, and then head out exploring new neighborhoods, not worrying about how many miles we were covering, not worrying about our splits or our pace or about lap times.  We'd simply agree to a rough time, say 60 minutes, and then just head out.  When we got to 30 minutes, we'd start heading back in the general direction of our cars.

Village of Bellville OH
Today I do this wherever I go on my travels around the country.  I scout a likely route using Google maps satellite view, not worrying so much about distance, just the run-worthiness of the road.  Then I just do it!  If it's going well, I keep going; if it's not going well I turn around early and head back to the hotel.  This technique has delivered me to sites as delightfully diverse as the Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen, the pretty little Village of Bellville situated on a "rails to trails" path in Ohio, the brewery district in Denver, the Royal Palace in Oslo, the Navy Pier in Chicago, the Embarcadero in San Franciso.

I learned that it isn't always about the distance.  

It is about the time spent running. 

The distance covered is simply the outcome. 

Little Mermaid Statue
Copenhagen, Denmark

1 comment:

  1. Well said. I like the idea of running for time not for distance. It is nice that you can see so many cool things on your runs.

    When we go for our walks we know the approximate length for our route but seem to always go on the same routes from the house instead of driving somewhere and walking.