Monday, October 6, 2014

Running for Your Inner 7-Year-Old

Remember when you were a kid, and you'd just take off running? You'd run for no reason other than just because you could. It felt amazing. There is something about that childlike freedom that feels so liberating. There's no miles to be logged, no PR to set. I would run just for the sake of running.  When I started running track in high school, I recall how tedious it made running. Miles and miles of laps. Stairs. Running with parachutes. Practicing hand offs. Don't get me wrong - I LOVED being on the track team. But there's something about the tedium of logging miles and working towards a time goal that can really suck the fun out of running.

My senior year track photo
I started training for my first marathon more than eight years ago, and I've logged hundreds and hundreds of miles. I've done the same 3 mile and 4 mile and 5 mile and 12 mile loops over and over again. Sometimes I get done with a loop I've done countless times and actually don't remember traversing the same paths because it's so automatic. There are times when the alarm goes off at 5:45 am that I dread going for a run. I shrug into my running clothes and groggily take the dogs for a walk. I try to find lots of excuses to get out of going for a run. Sometimes my brain wins, and I don't run. Some of the time, however, I slog through 3 or 4 miles mechanically, mentally congratulating myself for not quitting.

Every now and again I try really hard to tap into my inner 7-year-old and remember that it is a joy to run. Every mile makes me stronger, healthier and happier even if they feel tedious at the time. Racing, however, keeps it fresh. I feel that childlike sense of excitement and nervousness each time I race, whether it's a 5k or a marathon. 

Sometimes I find myself wanting to take off running for no reason. I'll be walking back from the mailbox or walking the dogs. I'm generally not dressed to run. Sometimes I'm wearing flip flops. Yet my inner child decides I should take off and run as fast and hard as I can. I'm not worrying about time or distance or form. I just want a few moments of that pure joy of running.

A few weeks ago I bought a pair of wellies to wear while walking to work once the weather becomes less than desirable (yet before snow boots are needed). This past weekend we were in northern Michigan for the wedding of some good friends. It was a chilly and rainy weekend, and I busted out the wellies for a spin. We drove to nearby Grand Traverse Lighthouse to check it out. 

I ran out into the water in my wellies to ensure they were actually waterproof. It was such a freeing experience to stand in freezing water with dry feet. I had this moment of childlike exuberance that reminded me of running for the pure joy of it. I told myself that I'd do this more often - tap into my inner 7-year-old and do things for the pure joy of it. I'll run and jump and enjoy sunshine, rain, autumn leaves and snow. 

The next time the urge strikes you be sure run or skip or stop to admire the world. Your inner child will thank you.  

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