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I'm 37 years old, and a married, working mom of two boys. I'm finally working on my Master's degree in Teacher Leadership. (Another story for another day--why did it take me so long?!?!) I tell you that, so you understand, I'm not aiming to run with the elites. Just a mama who runs and the journey she went on this summer.
I love running. The ideas and thoughts I have when I run are unlike anything I have during the day.
The early morning run is like stealing time from the day. It's my favorite. Here, when you get up, the dark envelopes you as soon as you get outside. Even with BRFs (Best Running Friends), it can feel spooky and lonely at best. The worst is when you encounter nocturnal animals. (Think raccoons and opossums scurrying about.) Insert a giant shiver here. (Did you know a raccoon can run 15 miles an hour?!?!?! I can't.)
I run enough miles that I have all "the gear." A pack, two water bottles, snacks, the shoes, apps that can locate you, time you, and play music for you all at once.
I used to define my runs as good or bad by my splits from the app. Anything under 9:00? Good. Anything over 9:30? Bad. That was it. It was either good or bad. And I pushed to stay under that 9:00 all the time. You might and probably are way faster than me, but these were the numbers that defined my running.
Now, I do believe that in the beginning, having that information pushed me to a higher level of fitness quicker. There were definite benefits. (Read, if you love apps in running, I don't think that's bad...my journey went in a different way.)
Fast forward through about 6 years, and 9+ races with my gear. Some races were good. Some were not. And it all came back to the splits.
This summer, a few things popped up as I ramped up my miles. (Nothing huge, think 37 years old.) As I fiddled with my iron count, my diet, etc. the running apps informed me my running wasn't good. What was I supposed to do? Stop running?
As I healed and reset myself this summer, I learned to run unplugged. First, I just ran with a simple stopwatch. So I could sneak in a mile split if I needed to. (Naturally). And one day, I was able to text a picture to my husband of that watch with a split that made me feel like I could win the upcoming NYC Marathon.
Then, I left the watch at home, and just ran with the music. Something awesome happened. I forgot about those apps, and I started noticing my community. The people, sites, animals, cars I encountered on my runs began to define my running. Think of it like this: "You guys! My run was awesome today! A bat swooped at my head!" Or "I just saw a raccoon on the trail, and I had to shout at it to get out of the way! It was awesome!"
Then, this fall, it got better. Even the music stayed quiet, and my thoughts and ideas grew louder. Running unplugged can do that.
Running unplugged also led to a girl who didn't race a half marathon this fall. It was relaxing, it was a little sad, it was empowering. Oh, the LHF XC race? It's on. I'm in it to win the turkey. ;)
Running unplugged also led to a girl who is firm in her running. Running is a part of who I am. Like breathing or eating. There's something empowering about getting up just for the run.
I'm learning to live by this quote from Jen Rhines, a distance runner, "Life (and running) is not all about time, but our experiences along the way."