Yesterday morning, I went for an eight mile run at Cochran Shoals park, my favorite local place to do a long run by myself. It’s pretty, and the dirt and gravel trail gives my legs a break from the pounding of the roads. There are also plenty of people – runners, cyclists, young families and their dogs – out enjoying the warm sun and the beauty around them, so I can also indulge in people watching.
While on the trail yesterday, I found myself thinking about two things: goals and why I love running. Since I started this project – writing about running and committing to donate a dollar for every mile I run this year to running-related charities – I’ve hesitated to set a mileage goal for the year. This is primarily because I hate to fail, and even more, I hate to fail publicly. So, I worry about setting a goal here and then not making it. But, when I really think about it, what’s the big deal? If I don’t reach my mileage goal, so what? I still will have achieved something that means something to me, and I know no one I love will judge me if I don’t quite make it.
So here goes. Here are my two primary running goals for the year:
* Run 1,000 miles. This means that I will need to average 21.2 miles per week over the remaining 42 weeks of the year. I think this is doable. Certainly there will be weeks when I don’t run that much. But, there will also be weeks – as I get into marathon training later this year – when I run much more than that. Which brings me to my second goal…
* Successfully train for and complete a marathon. Last year, I tried and didn’t make it, derailed by a stress fracture eight weeks before my race. But I know if I make some adjustments – primarily not pushing myself too hard and getting overly ambitious – I can do this. No time goals. I don’t care if it takes me five hours to finish the race. OK, that’s a total lie. I definitely will care if it takes me that long! But, I’m not setting a time goal. I want to stay healthy, have fun, and finish the race.
While at the park yesterday, I also thought about why I love running. I think it’s because it appeals to both the person I am and the person I strive to be. I am a Type A planner to the core. I thrive on structure. I am organized. I like to make lists and check things off, to set plans and see them unfold. Running meshes well with that part of my personality. I can set a training plan, check off each workout, and when the morning of the race comes, I know I have done the work and I am prepared. I am ready to succeed.
I like being a planner. It is who I am, and it’s served me well. But I am also striving to balance that part of my character with the side of me that is there, but more fleeting – the side that is mindful, that lives in – and is grateful for – the moment, rather than focusing on the past or what lies ahead.
And isn’t that really all we have? This moment, this day? No matter how much I plan things out, I know there are no guarantees in life. So I want to try to let go a little bit, to do the best I can, working against my plans, but to not be a slave to them. Because as John Lennon said in his song “Beautiful Boy” – “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” And I really don’t want to miss anything.
So I also love running because it nurtures awareness, mindfulness. For me, an eight to ten mile run passes by quickly at Cochran Shoals, because it becomes almost meditative. I feel calm, peaceful. Most of the chatter that constantly hums in my mind – plans, obligations, to-do lists, hopes, dreams, fears – quiets down. And I can just be. I feel my breath go in and out and my legs turn over, strong beneath me. I hear my feet crunch in the gravel. I smell the earth around me and taste the salt in the sweat on my skin. I see the sunlight sparkle on the river and the tall green Georgia pines reaching up against the blue, blue sky.
And for those of you skeptical of me for sounding so “zen” today, rest assured, there are plenty of days that I curse my running shoes while I pull them on, feeling drained from a long day and plodding along sluggishly because I know I need to stick to my “plan” and get the miles in. But yesterday wasn’t one of those days. I felt strong and joyful and humming head to toe with life, feeling my place in the world. And I am very grateful for that.
Miles run since Monday: 15; total miles for the year: 110.