As I was leaving the house for my run that morning, I was already running late. Torn between skipping it completely or rushing to fit it in, I chose the latter and scrambled out the door. Total self-imposed stress, I know, but still better than berating myself the rest of the day for missing a run. Within moments, I realized I had forgotten my watch but didn’t want to waste time going back for it. And as long as I wasn’t going to time myself, I figured I’d skip using Runkeeper, as well.
If you’re not familiar, Runkeeper is a GPS app that tracks every aspect of your run and also offers voice coaching with time and pace cues. If you’re having a good run, Runkeeper is your friend. On a bad run, you want to throat punch her.
So for the first time in a very long time, I was running without a clock. Without being timed. Without the compulsive need to check my pace and mile split times. Simply put, I was running without the pressure of performing and competing against myself.
My counselor asked me recently if I enjoy running and what I think about when I run. She wondered if it was a peaceful mental place for me. (Yes, I have a counselor. She has this amazing ability to help me process life events and relationships, and in turn, formulate healthy responses and reactions. I adore her and she’s worth her weight in gold) Ummm. Wow. The fast answer would’ve been, “Yes, of course I enjoy running.” And I do. To an extent. But you’d never know it by the self-talk that normally bounces around in my brain:
“Ugh. God, I’m so slow today. Is that all the time that’s passed? This sucks. What the hell is wrong with me? I do NOT want to run 9-minute miles. Mother of pearl- I wanna be sub 8 on this. Or at least low eights. Have I gotten slower? I need to eat better. Less beer would probably help too. I should really cross train. I say that everyday and never do it. Dumb. This hill is kicking my ass. I suck. How did I ever run 2 half marathons when it feels like I can’t run 4 miles today? I’ll never be able to run a full marathon.”
You get the picture. Big sigh. It’s not very nice. I’m kind of embarrassed by it. My counselor went on to ask me if I would ever talk to a friend the way I talk to myself. Ummm no. Never. Ever. So what would I tell a friend who was having a bad run? “Hey! Not every run is going to be your best. Every run is different. You still got out there today! You’re still running! Look at all the people who never exercise or run at all. Be proud of yourself. You’ll do better next time.” Woah. Big difference.
So there I was, running without any self-imposed pressure–and though I was tempted to worry about my time, I made a conscious effort to just simply run at a pace that felt natural to me. And then I did something that felt sort of corny at the time. I started to think about some quotes I’d read recently -the ones about living in the moment and enjoying life and being fully present. So part way through my run, I made myself breathe as deeply as I could and started to meditate on the positive things in my life right now. It’s very possibly been the worst year of my life (or 2nd worst year anyway) and therefore seemed like a loser idea, but this is what I heard in my head:
“I love that the sun is shining right now. It’s an absolutely beautiful morning. The trees are changing colors and it’s amazing. I’m so thankful I can run this morning. I know my schedule won’t always be like this, but it is today- and I’m thankful for that.”
I could feel the tears starting to come.
“Thank you God for my kids and how well each of them are doing. Thank you that they are happy and healthy and each in a good place. Thank you for my parents and how much they love me and support me. Thank you that I have brothers and a sister that love me and would do anything for me. Thank you for the friends in my life that love me and adore me and think that I am lovable and funny and kind.”
I am in the home stretch now, running down my street with tears streaming down my face. “Thank you for my home. I love my house. My yard. My dog. Life has been so, so very hard- and yet there is so much sweetness too- I am overwhelmed. “
The day I forgot my watch, I probably didn’t run my fastest 4 miles ever, but it wasn’t my slowest either. I loved the happy and free girl I ran with. In those moments, yes, I loved running- but I loved my life, too. And that’s a good run day.