It’s Not All About the Numbers

Today I rediscovered the joy of running.

One year ago today I bought my first “real” running shoes.  I was painfully slow, and filled with pain – both emotional and physical.  With each mile I ran, I found freedom.  For the first several months,all of my running was inside on the treadmill.  there I could run in the safety of home, with my television for entertainment, the air conditioning and ceiling fan for comfort, the bathroom mere steps away, and an unlimited supply of ice water whenever I wanted it.  I could run in shorts or pajamas.  I couldn’t imagine running outside.  That soon changed.

As the weather became nicer, I decided to venture out to the local high school track.  I couldn’t believe how different it felt.  I hated every step that first trip.  The wind made it harder to run.  There were people there who might secretly (or not so secretly) make fun of me.  They were all faster than me.  They had nicer running clothes, too.

I posted on Facebook that I didn’t think I would ever really like running outside.  A friend commented that she wouldn’t be surprised if I changed my mind.  She was right.  I loved watching the scenery pass, and I loved the feeling of actually moving forward.  I enjoyed the sights and the sounds and the sensations.  Sometimes I ran with music, and sometimes I listened to the wind and the birds.

Soon I was running at the track on a regular basis.  I “branched” out and began running around town and on local trails.  As winter fell, I found I hated the treadmill.  I had fallen in love with running.

Although I tracked my pace and was delighted to watch it improve, I didn’t focus much on my pace.  That all changed when I signed up for my first half marathon.  I knew it was an ambitious undertaking.  I had started as a person who needed to lose fully one half of her body weight.  I couldn’t walk a mile without stopping.  The race I signed up for had a time limit.  I was slow (I still am).  Not only was I asking my body to move much farther than it ever had before, I was demanding that it do so at a particular rate of speed.

I began tracking my pace on every run.  I tend to get a little obsessive about certain things.  Soon I was running with three different apps open, each with a particular feature the others didn’t have.  The joy of running turned into anxiety about a slower than average day, or the fact that I hadn’t improved over the previous week.  I pushed my body harder and faster, and when the race came, I still couldn’t keep up with the pace.  I got swept.  It was terribly disappointing.

Upon my return to the gym, I downloaded more apps that did more things.  I put a sensor on my shoe and obsessed about whether or not the apps were properly calibrated for the indoor track.  I lost sight of the joy I had found and focused on the numbers as a measure of success.

It’s been a long, cold winter.  When the sun came out today, I went back to the high school track where I took that first outdoor run.  I turned on an app to track my pace, but I turned off the feedback about pace and distance.  I listened to music.  I ran “faster” for one minute, then “slower” for the next minute.  I didn’t stress about my pace.

When my run was finished, I looked at the stats.  My pace wasn’t half bad, but that wasn’t what was important.  I got out there.  I ran.  I burned calories.  I sang.  I had fun.  I remembered why I started this running business in the first place.

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