Rock_Creek_Park

Everyone is busy right now, so I promise not to clog your inboxes or readers with too much this week.

Instead, I thought I’d briefly reflect on the past year, thank all of you for being such great readers, and share some exciting stuff we have coming up on RCR in 2013.

Rock Creek Runner didn’t officially exist until March of 2012.  Sure, a lot of posts originally written for the old blog “The Hay Say” (RIP, my dear old friend) were moved over to RCR, but this unique community of runners didn’t form until this year.

It has been a lot of fun writing and growing with you over the past year.

We’ve talked about trail running, yoga, run streaks, and inspiration.  We’ve had a few product reviews, giveaways, and so much more.

A few months ago, Rock Creek Runner released a 5-part eGuide to everything running in DC, which hundreds of area runners have signed up to receive.

It has been fun and exciting, and I’m glad we got to share it together!

Building off the momentum of 2012, we have tons to look forward to in 2013!

A calendar of exciting and innovative posts has already been created, including interviews, guest posts, product reviews, and new media forms.

In addition to what is going on at Rock Creek Runner, I’ve (Doug) begun co-hosting No Meat Athlete Radio, a monthly podcast with Matt Frazier of NoMeatAthlete.com.  We have a list of great topics and wicked cool guests coming up over the next few months, so you will want to be sure to tune in and subscribe (even if you aren’t veg! Most of the episodes haven’t been about nutrition).

Thank you all for reading, it has been such a pleasure to get to know many of you through the site.  I hope that you continue to come back, and I’m excited to share a new year of great running!

NFEC-50 Finish with Alex B.
NFEC-50 Finish with Alex B.

Dang, where did the year go?  I seems like just yesterday that I was mapping out my 2012 race schedule, and here I am planning another one.

As runners we are forced into this yearly ritual of planning our race schedule far in advance.  Deciding to do a race 8 months out might not sound like much, but often what you commit to equals months of training, long hours of running, and turning down fun things because you have a big run the next day.

I rarely plan what I’m eating for lunch, let alone an entire year’s worth of something, but with races filling faster than ever and training becoming more targeted than ever, planning ahead has become a must for many of us.

Finding a good balance of spontaneity, thoughtfulness, and intrigue is key for planning a successful year of running.

My Plans for the Next Year

Planning for my 2013 race schedule has proven a bit complicated.  What has thrown off any normal plan is that the I would consider my ‘A’ race is in February.  That is really early to be running your A race.

Secondly, I’m getting married in September.  The last thing I want to do (or the future Mrs. RCR wants me to do) right before my wedding will be run a big race, and I know that training will be cut back significantly during the months before and after the big day.  That means that any major races in August – October are probably out.

So where does that leave me?

I was selected through a lottery to run this year’s 40 mile Mt. Mitchell Challenge in February.  If you aren’t familiar with the race, it starts in Black Mountain, North Carolina and runs to the top of Mt. Mitchell (the highest point on the east coast) and back.  20 miles up, 20 miles back, in February.  It is going to be brutal.

I will also be putting my name in the hat for the Bull Run 50 this year.  In addition to that, I’m hoping to run another 50k at some point, and plan to toe the line of a few local half marathons and 10 milers throughout the year.

Something New

Shenandoah's Appalachian Trail
Shenandoah’s Appalachian Trail

If all goes as planned, I will be diving into something new this year.

I hope to take on a few big fastpacking trips and treat them more like races than weekend outings.  I’ll train for them just as I would a real race, and hopefully they will fit in perfectly with the rest of my schedule.

What is fastpacking?  Basically backpacking a lot faster.  Instead of hiking 10-15 miles a day on a backpacking trip, I’ll strip down to the basics, carry a much smaller pack, and aim for 20-30 miles a day.

A few target trips I have in mind for this year would be 40-50 miles over 2 days in Shenandoah National Park (SNP) in March, and a possible trip alone the full length of SNP’s 101 mile section of the Appalachian Trail over 3-4 days.

This will be something totally new for me, and I’ll be sure to share my experiences as they come.

4 Tips for Planning Your Race Calendar

Planning out your race schedule can be a little difficult, but it will make your training and racing much smoother down the road.  Here are a few tips I’ve learned from past experience:

  1. Start with your ‘A’ race, the race that is most important to you.  Plan around that date, using shorter distance races as training tools leading up to it, and taking advantage of the targeted training you just finished for races following it.
  2. Think outside the box and find races you might not typically run.  Are you new to trail running?  Find a local trail race.  Thinking of trying out your first triathlon or duathlon?  Find an empty gap in your schedule and see if there is a local race to add to your schedule.  Mixing things up will keep you interested.
  3. Have a backup plan so you aren’t totally bummed if you can’t get into a race you were planning to run.  It happens.
  4. Don’t over-schedule yourself.  It’s a lot better to realize you don’t have any races coming up and jump into a local 10k than it is to have too many marathons on your calendar and get burnt out.

Thinking ahead can be a lot of fun and very exciting.  Have you been planning your race schedule for 2013 yet?  What big races do you have coming up?

Excuses: So easy to create, so hard to overcome. 

When it comes to creating excuses for skipping your next run, most of us are pros.  I think I’ve even used “but I already took a shower today!” more than just a few times.

Yet when it comes to valid excuses, chances are pretty slim that we actually have one.  If you really want to do something, you’ll make the time and have energy to do it.

One thing that my current running streak has taught me is that finding a time to run doesn’t have to be as big of a challenge as I liked to make it.  All it takes is a little planning and a bit of desire.  I have now run 180+ days in a row, and while dozens of excuses have crept up in my head, none of them have been good ones.

If you are having trouble getting yourself out the door and on the road or trail for your next run, take a minute to step back and look at why you intended to go on the run in the first place.  Was it to get in shape?  To gain strength?  Or maybe to train yourself for a much larger goal like a marathon or an ultra?

People run for any number or reasons, but people also quit running because they have forgotten what that reason is. 

Remind yourself daily.  Set goals and make them public.  Figure out what it is that will keep you going and take advantage of that thing as much as possible. Maybe it is the desire to drop a few pounds or just the fear of letting someone down.  Whatever it is, hold on to it and don’t let go.

If you can step back and look at your excuse, I bet you’ll discover that it is pretty lame.

I know that this works.  Almost daily I’m faced with excuses that would have easily kept me from running before, but now, after stepping back to look at them more closely, I no longer see them as valid.  You can do the same thing.

What’s your excuse?  I bet it’s a bad one.  Now get off the couch, lace up those shoes, and get out for a run.  I promise you’ll never regret it.

 

PS.  The above is my first attempt at an infographic.  What do you think? 

The jingle bells are ringing and the carolers are singing.  The holiday season is upon us.

Just like every holiday season, we are constantly reminded of how this is the time of giving and receiving.  I was going to kick off the season with a wish-list gear guide, but instead I thought it better to save that for later and focus on the giving side first.

When it comes to life in and out of my running kicks, I have plenty to be thankful for.  Family and friends, faster race times and new distances, a great DC running community, and the beautiful future Mrs. RCR.

But when it comes to running, my running life has remained a pretty selfish and self-centered.

I work hard to improve my times, push myself to new distances, and absorb whatever mental and physical peace the run gives me.  Rarely do I run for others or use the hours spent training for anything other than personal gain.

So here we are, wrapped in this time of over indulgence and consumerism, and I’m thinking I should use my most selfish daily act to help someone else.  You should too.

Back on My Feet

I first heard of the non-profit Back on My Feet (BoMF) at The North Face -50’s pre-race brief earlier this year.  One of the members shared his personal story and how the program changed his life.  As the official website describes:

“Back on My Feet is a national nonprofit organization that is dedicated to creating independence and self-sufficiency within the homeless and other underserved populations by first engaging them in running as a means to build confidence, strength and self-esteem. The organization does not provide food nor shelter, but instead provides a community that embraces equality, respect, discipline, teamwork and leadership.”

About two months ago I decided it was time to look back into the program and see how I could get involved.  After a short orientation, I signed up to join a team and started running with the group a few days later.

The experience has been incredible thus far, and it is very clear how this community of runners is helping and encouraging each other.  We all need a lift sometimes, and BoMF provides that lift to a lot of people who may have never considered themselves runners before joining the group.

The group trains together, races together, and 3-4 days a week meets at 5:45am to start their workout.  It is incredibly encouraging to be a part of this very diverse group coming together to share, help, and encourage each other.

Back on My Feet has programs in several cities, including:  Washington, DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and New York.  On each of those websites you will find further information on what the program is doing in that community and how you can be involved.

Charity Races and Training Groups

We’ve all see groups like Team in Training, Girls on the Run, and Run to Remember.  Sometimes their presence can be so large at a race that you feel like you are a part of the group too!

If you aren’t all that familiar with the groups, they usually offer training plans, running groups, support and community for participants who sign up to raise money for their cause and train with the program.

For many people, it is a great way to get a little motivation and encouragement during the difficult training period, as well as raise funds for a group that needs it.  If you are looking for a way to give a greater meaning to your upcoming race, consider joining one of these groups or raising money for a charity involved in the race.

Check the group’s website or the race organizer’s website for a list of participating charities and how you can join.

As the sport grows, charity races are also becoming more and more popular.  A great DC area example is the SOME Turkey Trot held every Thanksgiving.  This year had more than 10,000 runners taking on the 5k course.  Check out the race calendars for your area and find a race hosted by a charity or non-profit using the event as a fundraiser.

Didn’t register for a race in time?  Often times with larger races you can gain a late entry if you commit to fundraising for one of their selected charities.  Check out the race’s official website to see if that option is available.

Run For a Reason

Working hard to improve your times and distances doesn’t mean that you are only running for yourself.

By running for a charity, working with a non-profit, or even just talking your running partner through a tough time, you can add some real pleasure to your training.  It helps me get out of bed for that incredibly early morning run if I know others are counting on me too.

Call for Comments:  Have you ever participated in a charity training group or worked with a running non-profit?  How was the experience?

Trail Running?  Sounds fun, but isn’t it hard, dangerous, and just for dirty hippies?

Runners, just like everyone else, are often set in their ways.  We like the shoe brand that we have been wearing for years, and will never switch.  We have our favorite routes, which we run religiously at least 3 times a week.  And we are hesitant to leave the comfort of the road to try out something new, like trail running.

I was this way for a long time.  An old roommate kept telling me about the trails of Rock Creek Park and how great they were, but I already had road routes I was happy with and was nervous to try something new.

Finally, that roommate convinced me, and it was because of that final push that my running has been transformed forever. I’m here today to give you 42 of those little pushes.  Some might not resonate with you, but hopefully many will.  Below I have listed 42 reasons to start trail running as soon as your next run:

1)  You won’t find traffic lights on the trail.  There is nothing worse than stopping every block to wait for the light to change.  Avoid those pesky lights all together by hitting the trails.

2)  Wildlife on the road usually comes in the form of roadkill, but on the trail, you are one with nature and all the wildlife that comes with it.

3)  Trail running is easier on the knees than pounding the pavement.  The more giving trail will help prevent injury to knees and joints.

4)  Trail running works your ankles, helping to strengthen the muscles that support your feet and legs.

5)  You aren’t going to get hit by a car on the trail, so while other dangers might be of concern, traffic most certainly is not.

6)  Balance is a big issue for many of us.  When trail running we are forced to adjust our balance with every stride.  Over time that practice will improve our balance which helps us not only in the present, but as we age.

7)  It is hard to get bored on a run, when you are constantly paying attention to your footing and your surroundings are so beautiful.

8) Trail running lets you experience the seasons in the rugged way nature intended.

9)  Roads are designed so that hills are not too steep or sudden.  Trails are not.  You can run killer hill workouts on the trail that could never be done on road.

10)  Some of the best running races in the world are run on trails.  By getting into trail running, you open yourself up to a whole new world of races both locally and elsewhere.

11)  By running the singletrack, you gain immediate membership into a new running subculture.  The trail running community is very friendly, I promise.

12)  If you want to run ultramarathons, you better start thinking about trail running.  Most ultras are run on trail.

13)  Trail running works a variety of  muscles in the legs and back, giving you a more well-rounded workout than running on smooth pavement.  This is important for strength and helps prevent injuries. 

14)  Trails can be found just about anywhere.

15)  Every new location provides a distinct trail experience.  The type, elevation, and views from one trail can be completely different than another.

16)  When running you can cover much more ground than hiking.  Turn that 5 mile day hike through the woods into a 10 mile trail run in the same amount of time!

17)  Nothing screams adventure like a trip deep into the wild wilderness.

18)  Slow trail running builds crazy amounts of muscle that road running just can’t do.  When you hit the roads after a few trail outings, you’ll notice that new strength speed.

19)  People, bikes, and strollers all crowd the sidewalks you are trying to run down.  Get away from the crowds by hitting the trail.

20)  Getting dirty is a lot of fun, and really easy to do when trail running.

21)  You can take a lot cooler pictures from a mountain peak or river bank than you can from a city sidewalk.

22)  Trail running can be turned into an entire vacation by camping out on the trail and running during the day.

23)  Need a boost to your self-esteem?  Start telling people you are trail runner.  They will think you are a badass, trust me.

24)  Everyone likes to have an excuse to run slow.  You will naturally run slower on trails than the road, so now you don’t have to hide it!

25)  Training at a higher elevation makes running at low elevations easier.  Trails will often lead you up a mountain or along a ridge, providing great opportunities for running at elevation.

26)  When you read blogs like irunfar.com and atrailrunnersblog.com, you will relate.

27)  Being a trail runner doesn’t mean you can’t still be a road runner.

28)  You burn 10% more calories trail running than you do on regular road running.

29)  Many runners rank solitude as one of their favorite parts about running.  On the right trail, you will feel like you are the only person in the world.

30)  Trail hills can be tough, but no one in the trail running community cares if you throw your hands on your knees and power-hike your way up the hill.  In fact, it is expected!

31)  Trying out a new sport means trying out cool new gear!

32)  It is really easy to get lost when trail running (in your thoughts, hopefully not on the trail).

33)  Adrenaline keeps a lot of runners going when they are tired.  By moving your run to a more extreme location (a trail), that adrenaline keeps pumping.

34)  When you need a rest, it’s a lot more pleasant to rest by a creek, under a tree, or on a mountain peak than on a street corner.

35)  You’ll begin to feel like a Tarahumara Indian.

36)  It is easy to turn a short run into an all-day trek through the woods.  Switch between hiking and running if you want to spend more time on the trail.

37)  After following a few simple steps, even the indoorsman can feel prepared.

38)  The softer surface will help keep your feet healthy as you break in those new minimalist kicks.

39)  Hikers think you are crazy, sexy, cool, when you speed by them.

40)  Because you are running slower and burning more calories, you can bring more delicious foods with you on your run than just an energy gel.  Runners have been known to eat cookies and chips, and even drink soft-drinks (or hard ones!).

41)  Right now you probably get weird looks when you break out the headlamp for early morning or late evening road runs.  No one out on the trail at that time of day/night would think twice about the glowing lantern coming from your forehead.

42)  Trail scars are impressive.

That might seem like a lot of reasons, but I know there are many more.  If you are already a trail runner, what makes you get out and hit the dirt?

Still not convinced? Click here to pick up your copy of the free eBook Why Every Runner Should be a Trail Runners: And How to Become One.

Product links may be affiliate links

Photo Credit

It is Yoga for Runners Week here at RCR!  This is the second of two posts from Katie Fox-Boyd of DC Yogi.

I know you have been meaning to try yoga because you heard it will benefit your running and provide good cross training, right? Well, now is your chance.

As I said in my post earlier this week, yoga is the perfect cross training for runners.  Whenever I run I tack on a short yoga practice afterward to balance the body and mind. The following sequence is a perfect way to warm-up for a long run or to stay active on rest days. It provides strength building and stretching in all the right places. I’ve also included a restorative pose which can be done as part of the sequence or on its own when you need physical and mental restoration.

Find time for a fifteen minute yoga practice, a few times a week, and try the yoga for runners sequence below. If you are short on time these poses can also be practiced individually rather than as a sequence.

You can practice this sequence along with me in this video, or work through the poses below on your own.

[youtube_sc url=rtG9gL8ifaY width=460]

Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana) with a Shoulder Opener

Benefits

  • Stretches the hamstrings, calves, and hips
  • Calms the nervous system to relieve stress

The pose

Stand with feet together (or hip-width apart if more comfortable) and fold forward. Let the head be dead weigh. To release the back, gently bend the knees. To stretch the hamstrings, keep the legs straight. Hold 5 to 10 breaths.

To take this into a shoulder opener, interlace the fingers behind the back and draw them over toward the head (if this is accessible for your body). Hold for 5 to 10 breaths then release the hands back down to the floor.
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running_Yoga_infographic

It is Yoga for Runners Week here at RCR, so we will be featuring two guest posts by Katie Fox-Boyd of DC Yogi.

A few months ago I taught a “yoga for athletes” workshop to a group of pre-marathon runners. We focused on strength building, stretching to release tightness in certain parts of the body, breath work to improve oxygen intake and calm nerves, and restorative poses to relax and rejuvenate.  Following the class, I heard from many of the students who told me they would use many of the tools in the upcoming weeks of training.

I am not a long-distance runner, but I dabble with a few miles here and there. After I run, I always end up practicing a little yoga. It is just a natural pairing and I believe that yoga is the perfect cross-training for runners.

Below you will find what I believe to be the top 5 reasons yoga benefits runners.

1. Strength and stamina improvement

A well-rounded yoga practice builds strength evenly in the muscles, joints, and ligaments.

Running requires repetitive motion which over-utilizes certain muscles while leaving other supporting muscles out. Yoga is well balanced so you will strengthen supporting and underutilized muscles. Many poses also provide release through deep stretching of the ligaments and muscles.

The physical and mental practice of yoga leads to increased range of motion, body control, muscular symmetry, energy levels, and overall strength and flexibility.

2. Injury Prevention

Yoga prevents injury by, not only increasing flexibility and strength, but building mental awareness of the body and the signals it will send you when injury is on its way. Yoga also improves alignment in the body so that poor positioning during performance will not lead to injury.

3. Better Breathing

The breath is a powerful tool and in yoga the pranayama, or breath work, is a practice that will increase your oxygen intake and teach you to breathe correctly.  Through a well-balanced yoga practice that includes breath work you will benefit from a more relaxed mental state. Deep breathing can help reduce performance anxiety or allow you to better manage the mental intensity of body work. So when you hit that last mile of a long run, you have the know-how to optimize your breathing.

4. Inner strength

Yoga is not just about the physical postures but also mental practice. In yoga you cultivate improved concentration and the ability to overcome the ego telling you that you can’t do something; confidence is built on the yoga mat and transfers over when you are lacing up for a race.

5. Relaxation

An important part of any athlete’s bag of tricks is recharging between workouts. Practicing yoga helps to reduce fatigue, improves sleep, clears the mind of worry, and reduces physical tension. Yoga provides ways to calm the nervous system when stress or anxiety set in.

So there you have it, to me combining a yoga practice with your regular running routine is a no-brainer. If I haven’t sold you on the many benefits of yoga for runners, then stay tuned and try it yourself. Later in the week I will provide a simple yoga sequence geared specifically toward runners.

About the Author:  Katie Fox-Boyd is a Washington, DC based registered yoga teacher and the fiancee of RCR founder Doug Hay.  Check out her blog DC Yogi where she shares her advice and musings, for the beginner yogis and those with a beginner’s mind.

From the moment my worn-down Asics hit the dirt trails in DC’s Rock Creek Park, I knew my running would be forever changed.

Like most people, I started out running on the roads. I trained for a road marathon, and established neighborhood loops from my house. It was good. I was happy.

But that day more than six years ago — on that trail — I realized how much more the simple shift from running on trail, not pavement, could provide.

I had no idea trail running would eventually lead to ultramarathons, a kick ass community, and this site, and I was clueless about the strength benefits of training (at least in part) off road.

But it hasn’t always been peaks and vistas.

The transition from pavement to dirt had plenty of bumps — or mistakes — along the way. These mistakes are common for new trail runners because of the key differences and expectations between running on different surfaces.

Fortunately, they’re easily minimized when you come in with a little bit of knowledge.

Rules to Live By When Transitioning from Road Running to Trail Running

Below I dive into what I believe are the six rules everyone should know before hitting the trail.

Rules that if followed will help make trail running more approachable, easier to incorporate, and a lot more fun.

But the first is often the hardest to accept:

1) Slow Down

As rough as it may be on the ego, don’t expect to maintain the same pace on the trail as you do on the road — especially as a beginner. You can blame that on a few things:

  1. There’s more in the way. Rocks, roots, trees, leaves, they all cause changes in your stride that effect your pace.
  2. Even with a good pair of trail shoes, traction is often an issue.

Often times your typical running intensity will produce a slower pace and can vary significantly depending on the trail.

So what should you do? Start to measure your runs based on intensity, not pace.

And because a run will most likely take longer on the trail, as a beginner I recommend running for time instead of distance. For example, if a six mile run takes around 60 minutes on the road, go on a 60 minute trail run instead of a six mile trail run. You may only make it five miles, but the workout will be similar.

2) Mind the Hills (And Don’t Be Afraid to Walk)

Road hills can be treacherous, but let’s face it, they’re nothing compared to what the trail can throw your way.

Trail builders aren’t restricted to road building regulations, so they follow a more natural flow. Up a mountain or over a giant bolder, the flow is often more direct and much steeper on trail, creating interesting climbs and descents.

As a new trail runner, I believed “going for a run” meant only running, but it didn’t take long to realize why everyone else around me slowed to a power hike instead of a run on the steepest hills.

This doesn’t mean you’re weak or slow, and it’s often a more efficient way of making your way up the trail.

3) Lift Your Feet

Someone once told me that Americans are some of the clumsiest people in the world because we’re accustomed to smooth sidewalks and roads (just watch people as they walk up an uneven staircase).

When it comes to trails we have the same problem. Once you pick up pace and open your stride, the bumpy singletrack can quickly send you tumbling into the dirt. And you know what? That’s all part of the game.

Just last week I went on a 14 mile run with three very seasoned trail runners. The trail was littered with leaves and before we made it back to our cars all of us had fallen at least once. It happens … especially when you’re a beginner.

But as you teach yourself how to lift your feet, scan the ground for obstacles, and run with a stride that adjusts to the terrain, falling becomes much less of a concern. When it does happen, just brush yourself off and keep moving.

4) Don’t be a Jackass

Every sport, discipline, and hobby has it’s own etiquette. Trail running is no different.

Learn how to share the trail, pack out what you take in, and be mindful of other trail users.

When racing, it’s all about the community. Thank the volunteers, help out your fellow racers, and remember that you’re all in this together.

5) Get New Gear (But Only as You Need It)

Running should be simple, right? Especially trail running. So do you need new gear to run on the trails?

Here, this video may help you decide:

The simple answer is no, you don’t need new gear. But — and this is a big one — if you plan to run on trails frequently, some gear is a good idea.

Running through the woods will probably mean that you’re left with fewer resources, so you may need to carry water, food, or extra layers with you. You’ll find many of the basic items I recommend in the Trail Store.

Then there’s the question about shoes. I like to say that if you’re running at least a third of your miles on trails, or if you’re frequently running on difficult terrain, you should invest in a pair of trail specific shoes. Trail shoes are typically made from tougher materials than road shoes, and are built to withstand the extra wear and tear. Sometimes they have a rock-plate in the sole to help protect the feet against bruising, and they’ll always have larger lugs — or grip — on the sole to grasp the trail.

That said, road shoes can be used on the trail and trail shoes on the road, so it’s up to you if you think you need to make the investment.

6) Take Safety Precautions

Safety is always a concern for new trail runners. The fear of getting lost, experiencing treacherous weather, or encountering bad animals (or humans) will keep some people from ever going out on their own.

The chances of something bad happening are very slim, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I recommend you take appropriate safety precautions before hitting the trail:

  • Tell someone where you’re going and when you plan to return.
  • Take a phone with you if you’re going to be gone for a long period of time.
  • Know the route or carry a map.
  • Don’t run with headphones (or leave at least one ear out) so you can hear what’s going on around you.
  • Carry a backup layer or jacket if warmth will be an issue.
  • Take a little more food and water than you think you will need.
  • Know the wildlife risks, and how to handle a situation if it were to arise.

And whenever possible, run with someone else.

Chances are nothing will happen, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Now, Go Outside and Play

Trail running has breathed new life into my running, and I hope that it can do the same for you.

Don’t get discouraged if it seems harder than expected, or if you feel timid by the new challenges. Embrace them. Push yourself.

And if all else fails these six tips should take much of the guessing game out of your transition, and provide a bit more confidence when you hit the dirt.

Before we can talk about how to simplify our running, we should first figure out exactly what we are working with.

run: verb \ˈrən\

to go faster than a walk

Sounds easy enough.  So how do we define walking?

walk:  verb\ˈwolk\

to move along on foot : advance by steps

Running:  to move quickly on foot.  Damn that seems simple.

So why do we complicate it with drills, expensive technology, fancy apparel, and training plan after training plan?  To be more effective, efficient, and faster, of course.

But what if I told you that maybe taking a simpler approach would actually make you a stronger runner?

Too often we forget how simple running really is.  Moving faster than a walk.  Propelling yourself forward.  It is so primal, so intuitive.

Anton Krupicka, an ultramarathon hero of mine, says it really well in this video from New Balance.

Running ultimately distills life down to it’s basic elements, and that I think is really valuable experience.  Especially this day in age, where life can be pretty complicated.  When I’m out running, everything is simple, I’m totally living in the moment.  It makes sence.  It is a very pure experience.

How exactly do we get back down to those basic elements when we are so used to complicated running?

Just a few months ago I couldn’t leave for a run without GPS signal.  It was like I felt lost without my watch.  Then one day, as I stood out in the warm summer rain, impatiently waiting for the signal to pick up, I realized how ridiculous this was.  I wasn’t training for anything in particular.  I wasn’t going out for a super long run I wanted to track.  I realized that I had lost all simplicity and purity about my running, and somehow what used to be an escape from the day had turned into a complicated ritual I couldn’t let go of.

It was that day that I went back inside, left the Garmin behind, and went out for nothing more than a simple run.  Below I outline 3 easy rules I followed to lose all the hoopla and return to simple running, plus a challenge for you to join me.

1) Quit Running for Time:

The easiest way to measure improvement when it comes to running is with time and pace.  It is only natural that most runners focus heavily on their splits, checking average paces, and tracking how long it took them to complete their workout or race.
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Last Tuesday at about 4:45pm, I laced up for a run for the 100th consecutive day.

I have always been intrigued by the idea of a long run streak, but every time I started, I failed after just a few days.

Then recently I heard that Matt Frazier was starting one and my interest was re-sparked.  But as soon as the idea came, I realized that just because it sounded cool, that alone would get me out the door every day.

A few days later I happened to go to a yoga event with my fiancé, Katie, where the speaker addressed the topic of a pilgrimage and honoring and discovering yourself through that journey.  Something about what he was saying really spoke to me.  As a distance runner, what I find most appealing about registering for a new race is the journey and the personal growth while on it.

I knew I wasn’t going to be able to go hike the Ganges anytime soon, so instead I decided to start a simple, daily pilgrimage of running every day.  I set off on this daily journey with the hope of continuing up until our wedding day, 441 days after I started.

It’s possible I lost most of you with weird pilgrimage talk, but if you are still reading, I want to say that a run streak can be whatever you want it to be.  It doesn’t have to be a personal journey, it could be only a physical challenge, but I guarantee that after 50, 100, or 441 days of running, you will have learned a lot about yourself and your running that you will never learn from a standard training plan.

5 Things From 100 Days

1) Freedom from the Watch:  When I first started running seriously, I fell into the same thing most runners do.  As soon as I start training for a big race, I get so consumed with tracking miles, times, slips, and everything else, that I forget how inherently simple running really is.  For the last two years, I hardly ever went out on a run without my Garmin.  I felt like if I didn’t track the workout, it didn’t happen.

When I first started the run streak, the thought of running without a watch didn’t cross my mind.  I wanted to track every day’s workout to see how many miles I ran through the streak, but the more running became just running and not training, I found that I would have to force myself to put on the watch.  Aside from a long run each week, I haven’t worn the watch at all over the past 6-8 weeks.

It has been incredibly freeing to finally run simple again.


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