Running for an experience

Training for a fall half marathon officially started at the beginning of July. Through the rest of my summer job, my parents’ visit, and our trip to Arkansas, I’d say I’ve done a good job staying on track with training.

I have to continually catch myself when I compare this round of training to that of two years ago when I was training for the Transmountain Challenge Half. Circumstances “back then” (2013 is really back then?!) were quite different: my husband was deployed so I had nothing but time, I was 20 pounds lighter (thanks post-deployment comfort food and laziness), and I had already been building a base and consistently running before I started training.

This time around, my main goal is to finish the 13.1 [flat!] miles with a respectable time. My paces recently have been slow but consistent, and I have negative splits more often than not. I’ve missed cross-training, unless you count walking a mile with my dog every other day. I’ve also missed a couple speed workouts. One of those I skipped in order to run/hike in the Hot Spring National Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and it was well worth it.

Another change for this season of training is that I rarely take music. This really surprises me, because running can be a huge mental challenge and music tends to soften the blow a bit. But yesterday, I opted to go to a local park with a mile-long paved trail to do my 800’s, and all I took was my car key and my trusty four-year-old Garmin. Otherwise, I have to put my phone in the sleeve and hook up my earbuds… to be honest, I’ve just been kind of lazy about keeping track of all that gear.

The major advent for me with no music was several weeks ago on a Tuesday night. I was tired from eight hours of teaching writing, but somehow at 8:30pm I got a wild desire to go out and do my four miles I’d neglected earlier in the day. The last light of the day was sinking over the mountains, but I decided to literally make a run for it.

I ran through my neighborhood and took a familiar route, but at night and with no music it seemed completely different. Normally I run early in the morning, oftentimes before the sun’s rays graze the tops of the Hueco Mountains in the distance. This time, people were out and about, and I observed an informal soccer game in the park lit bright with stadium lights. The temperature had dropped significantly due to storms rolling in, so I breathed in the fresh air (in the Southwest summer, this means 75*) and watched the twilight fade in the west and distant lightning dance in the east.

It was so simple: a run with only my Polar watch (no distance needed since I knew the route) and no music. I returned home tired and happy, ready to tackle another day after a good night’s sleep.

Since that run, I’ve been running to have an experience, whether with the sunrise, the sunset, a storm brewing, the scent of juniper and mesquite. I’ve accepted my new-ish curvier body, and also┬áthat it can do what I ask it to do, and that I can’t compare my achievements now with those of two years ago.

Running takes us through change. If you let it, it will graciously hold your hand and forge a path through literal and figurative curved tunnels, concrete arroyos, soft dirt trails, and rugged mountains. I’ll take its hand and run.