So my running regime lately has been as erratic as the weather. Snow one minute, warm sunshine, then rain, then cold. The last few months have been so changeable that I haven't yet manage to sort out a running routine. My plans for running once a day have been scuppered by colds, kids and general grown-up stuff that has left me frustrated and frankly a little pee'd off.
Okay, so I am not the worlds most regimented athlete. (I am not even an athlete, so I have struck a dead-end with that already!) I do have a tendency to want to skip the run and hit the coffee shop instead. I mean, it's Vancouver and I don't know of one person in the Northern hemisphere who doesn't want to hole up somewhere warm and just forget the terrible weather outside. Even so,my running funk is now going beyond the occasional skipped run to an expanding waistline and a fridge empty of chocolate. I would like to say we have had an invasion of carb-hungry, cocoa withdrawn, junkie Christmas elves, but we all know they don't visit this time of year. Santa keeps them locked up at the North Pole rehab centre so they don't cause a scene with the kiddies. After all that business last year with the candy canes I don't blame him!
So this week I made a change to the whole training routine. No itinerary, no times, no distance. I was going to put on my hacked wetsuit aqua-socks and hit the trails. I was going to run as fast as I could for as long as I wanted. There would be no ipods, no watches, nothing. Just me, my crappy lungs, my spindly legs and my appalling dress sense.
The whole experience has left me realising I have had the whole training plan all wrong. I always maintained that I was only going to run when I wanted, but frankly needing to fill in so many miles a week just forced me to NOT do it. Now I don't even have a mileage plan. I have NO plan. In fact I am going so minimal in my running that fairly soon I probably will be leaving my feet at home because they are just an un-necessary addition that just ruins the whole experience!
So I have managed 3 trail runs this week. Each run was 5 miles and above and all in times I would never have tried for before. I literally did run as fast as I could. I would take the longer paths just because I could. I did hill-repeats because I felt like it. It was glorious, just feeling the continual motion of my legs, hearing my feet crunch the gravel, feeling my heart racing and feeling my lungs and muscles burning. I could feel the blood rushing around my body. Glory in the way all of my muscles connected with each other. Rejoice in endorphins reaching every cell. I had forgotten that running could be like this.
As I raced along, skipping over tree-roots and down the washed out banks, my mind cleared. I wasn't thinking of school meetings or therapists schedules. I wasn't singing along to music or playing air-drums. I went to another place. In fact I went primal. There was no conscious thought in what I was doing; it was like I had been transported thousands of years into the the past and I was hunting. I was chasing down other runners on the trail. Not to be quicker than them but just to catch them. Although I was wearing a pink skirt, winter leggings and a florescent jacket, I might as well have been carrying a spear for the way I felt. Lucky I wasn't carrying a spear, I would probably be up on a manslaughter charge about now!
There are times as runners we forget why we do this. We get lost in all of the schedules and goals. We monitor pace-times, gradients, distances and calorie expenditure, but we forget. Running isn't about being able to eat the 2nd chunk of chocolate from the fridge, it's connecting with our animal selves. We are creatures that are designed to hunt and chase. Until we realise and accept that, we can't experience the true enjoyment of the "hobby" we do. Oh and being able to have that second chunk of dairy-milk chocolate without the guilt, that's pretty good too.