Lately, my best runs have been sans headphones: no music, no podcasts, no robotic voice telling me my pace every mile. The run that I am most proud of myself for is one where I showed up and my bluetooth headphones were dead. I was able to remain with the run, listen to how my body was feeling, challenge myself, and enjoy the act of pushing myself harder than I had before.
It’s a bit laughable that this is some kind of realization. Of course I am enjoying running more when I’m paying attention to it. Of course it is interesting, challenging, and freeing when I am not trying to distract myself from it. I feel a little bit of shame for the fact that it has taken a long training season and a whole lot of miles for me to figure out how to truly enjoy the act of running. I have spent so many hours trying to simultaneously run toward improved performance, greater health, and a better mentality, but I didn’t realize that my head has been running in the opposite direction by swimming in distraction through the process.
With my second marathon approaching (holy shit, is that this weekend??) part of me is feeling nostalgic already. I haven’t enjoyed every run. I skipped more workouts than I should have. I didn’t always prioritize training. Sometimes, fatigue won. Other times it was wine. But somehow, I don’t really want training to be over. I’m afraid of being on the other side of what I have been training towards.
I will complete this marathon and the better part of a year’s training. I will take off a little too much time to “recover”. The weather will start getting colder. The snow-covered sidewalks will provide an easy excuse to neglect my running shoes and the busy-ness of the holidays will fill any extra time I might find I have. I’ll start feeling sluggish and running anything more than two miles will feel pretty difficult. Around the new year, I’ll begin again with a fresh set of goals, feeling like I have started all over again.
Or perhaps this time, I’ll just keep running. Or, maybe I’ll give up running altogether and find a brand new challenge that I love-slash-hate. Maybe I will find self-improvement in a brand new arena. What happens this Sunday and beyond are yet to be seen, and that’s much scarier than running a whole bunch of miles.