After years without running, the hardest part is slowing down

I recently wrote about my “annual run.” It’s a nearly perennial routine that I’ve attempted to restart running after years away. A few times, I’ve managed to maintain a regular running habit for a few months at a time, but more often than not, I’ll take a singular nostalgic run that leaves me hobbled for days, and that’s it for the year.

Today I managed to rein in my usual tendency to run too-far, too-fast, and completed a sane half-jogging, half-running, 3.1 mile expedition around the neighborhood. A literal couch to 5k effort. Of course, I started the run with the idea that I would run 5k without stopping. After five minutes, I made it to our nearby open space. I was tempted to keep going, but settled into a walk-run rhythm. A few minutes on, a few minutes off.

So what made the difference this time? Why did I slow down?

It just felt so good to be out of the house, off of the computer, and out in nature. I realized that I want to be able to do it more often. More often than once a year. More often than once a week! And it hit me. If I am just patient, there’s no reason that I can’t settle back into regular running.

As a teenage and even twenty-something runner, I was plagued by the notion of running “PR” personal record times. I was fixated on arbitrary speeds and times like trying to run a 5k under 20 minutes, or 800 meters under two. These were times I had either accomplished at the peak of my track and field and cross country running (sub 20 minute 5k, no tremendous feat), or had managed to come close to (two laps in two minutes).

And so, as an adult, the sudden nostalgic thrill of jogging usually sends me chasing after those arbitrary times. But not today. Today I took in the bird sound, the breeze, the crickets and prairie flowers, and knew that I’d found new priorities. To simply be on my feet and out of the house is profound pleasure these days. But to be back in nature, to be off the computer and away from my phone screen… that’s the new marrow of this sweet solitary enterprise.

So slow down is my new mantra, and I’ll be able to see this scene more often. Slow down and enjoy the cloudy skyline of walking. With a little time I’ll be able to jog straight through the 5k, those easy 3.1 miles. And if I keep remembering to take it easy, someday not to long from now, I may find myself logging 6 and 12 mile trail runs like I used to in college. Those long contemplative miles through the mountains were some of my most sacred and connected-feeling times.

Even in my suburban open space, I’m not too old to feel that way again 🙂


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