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The image of running

November 17, 2010

Recreational running without competing is not only possible, it's very enjoyable.

People use to ask me: “Have you run any spectacular race recently?” Or “Do you have any new long races planned?”. I tell them that participating in adventurous trail races in exotic locations can be fun, but that I do most of my running back home, and that I try to focus on each run, trying to enjoy every run, feel the beauty of every run. For me as a recreational runner competitive running can be fun, but my daily runs are 1000 times more mindblowing and enjoyable. Like today’s wet trail run in the sunset, with white spots of last night’s frost, crispy red leaves and cold, humid air in the shady parts. Muddy climbs and flowing streams welcomed me to the waiting forest. Golden warm november rays. Day old rain left behind between the stones in the overgrown stairway to the hill top.

Have you noticed the general focus on performance in most media articles about running? It becomes very clear when you scan most running magazines. Soo much attention on competition: marathon training programs; 10K training programs; interval and fartlek; reviews of heart rate monitors that are supposed to give you an edge; race reports; records etc.

I think it gives a sad image of running. I have to ask myself: is this appropriate? Is the majority of all running people in the world primarily interested in competitive running? Or running fast? If that is true my next question is: Why? Why does everything about running seem to evolve around racing? What happened with running for relaxation? What happened with natural pure running? Without measuring. Without other purposes.

Whatever the barefoot possy says, I'll stick to my trail shoes. These lightweight ones from Montrail works well on mixed terrain.

We need to ask ourselves: what kind of running are we actually spending our precious time with? I suspect many runners are engaged in running for something else – not for the beauty of running, but for some goal; a race; a stronger body; a more attractive body; for a healthier lifestyle; to release energy; for nature experiences; giving the dog exercise, etc. But not for the love of running. Instead running has become a necessary evil. Probably that’s the reason why most people who run do it on asphalt or boring running trails marked with 5K, 8K or 10K. Because they don’t care. When they have their “K-round”, or Mile-round within a certain time or not, they are done with it. Needless to say I’m done with that kind of running. I don’t use a watch when I run anymore. And I definitely don’t count any K’s or miles. What’s the thing with counting? Really? Is it for the ego boost? Isn’t the run worth anything otherwise?

This takes us back to today’s beautiful sunset run. Since I’m not really strong at the moment I have to struggle, especially on hilly, techinical trails. That’s just how it is now. I have to stop and rest. But I love resting, especially on beautiful spots with a view, doing 20 fast push-ups on a smooth rock. When I’m stronger I’m not resting as much. Maybe I get there soon, in a couple of weeks. But I don’t care! What I care about is today’s run. And I’m tired. The stride after 50 minutes or so is weak, sluggish, ugly… well, maybe not ugly, but I’m not looking forward to the rest of the run home, some 15 minutes away. Maybe 20 in this pace. However, and here is my point, my problem is that I can’t accept being tired, because it’s not supposed to be like that. (In my mind, for some reason.) Not yet. But, when I do accept my current state of tiredness and that I will have to complete this beautiful run in a less than elegant style, because that’s how it is, then it works fine. Then I enjoy it, and the joy carries me all the way home, almost effortless.

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