Monday, April 29, 2013

Enjoying the unscheduled runs

Last weekend's Pike's Peek 10k was the end of my spring racing season - a great way to end it. Before gearing up for the next adventure, I've been enjoying a gap between schedules. And I love schedules - I can check things off my list and roll with it. But for brief periods of time, I do appreciate the unscheduled runs.
I can dictate the runs, how long they are, and not get caught up in meeting any formal expectations. Now, all runs should be fun, and they mainly are, but there is something liberating about just going out for a run without thinking how it is an important building block in training. I got in 37 miles last week in just fun runs. And I felt like each run was appreciated for its own sake. It wasn't phoned in to make it fit in, it happened because I wanted to run.
Lately, because I'm more productive in the mornings, I've been doing most of my runs in the late afternoon. But after a sleepless night on Tuesday, I found myself up working very early. Why not get in a morning run, since I was already awake? I took to the mall, and after a Cherry Blossom season of tourists, was welcomed to a peaceful, quiet Mall. As I approached the WWII memorial, I could hear a lot of shouting. It was the local ROTC battalion, carrying flags, chanting out commands, as they got their morning run in. To see them en masse like that was so moving. I continued on, passing the Lincoln Memorial and then crossing the bridge to Arlington. That bridge is part of so many big races here that I've done: Marine Corps Marathon, Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, Army 10 Miler, and so a whole host of memories came flooding back. I was also just moved by how lush everything was: the grass so green, and the blooming flowers so bright. Everything was fresh, just like it should be in Spring. After getting near the Arlington cemetery, I headed back to DC. Instead of following the Mall path precisely, I detoured and ran along the Constitutional Pond. Very beautiful landscaping, and even more quiet. An oasis in a bustling city. I could hear myself think, and instead of the thousand thoughts running through my head as usual, there was peace. And as I embarked back on the path, towards the Washington Monument, the ROTC battalion emerged yet again, vigorously chanting and running. The sun was slowly rising, brightening the mall. No photograph could capture this beauty justly. In the end, I had covered about 8.5 miles, and had my breath taken away, not from the labor, but the pure sensory experience. It was perfect - nothing could have been better.I have also had great experiences beyond the mall, but DC's great running trails, like the Capital Crescent and Mount Vernon trails. But there is another which I had yet to enjoy: the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad trail. In total, it stretches about 40 miles, with markers every half mile. And lucky for me, where I'm moving to soon, it is only a mile away from my new apartment! I had a chance to try it out over the weekend, and I am completely in love. It is much hillier than some of the other DC trails, and so it can simulate better racing conditions than just a flat, straight path. Now, instead of taking the metro to get to a trail for tempo runs, it is nearly in my backyard. Plus, it has lots of opportunities to hop off and run through the local neighborhoods as well. I look forward to exploring and seeing all of these new places. I tend to only create a couple of routes (mainly because I am so bad at directions and fear getting lost on the run), so these areas will give me more flexibility.And at the end of the day, that's a good thing for me - more flexibility. I cannot become rigid and entrenched in my ways. So for the time being, in this gap between seasons, I am flexible in the run and hoping that will help me to loosen up in life in general.

1 comment:

  1. It's always so nice to get a break from training, especially after some stellar race performances! You definitely have earned the right to enjoy some unstructured run time.