This is not going to be a post about nailing your pace.
This is not going to be a post about picking up your pace.
This is not going to be a post about judging your pace at all.
This is a post about accepting your pace, forgetting your pace, and enjoying the run.
I’ve had a lot of conversations with people recently. People who are frustrated because on their run, they ran .3 of a minute slower than they would have liked. People who are frustrated because they didn’t PR at a race. People who set paces for their runs and stress over following those paces religiously.
Now, I’m not knocking pacing. It’s an important talent to learn as a runner. And it’s good to challenge ourselves to get faster. If you want to get a certain time for a race, you do have to pay attention to pace.
However, what I was noticing was that – with these people and with myself – stress about pace was robbing them and myself of the pleasure of running. Rather than be happy for having gone out for a run, I would be mad at myself for taking an extra minute per mile.
This mindset doesn’t recognize the other factors that feed into your run. If you’re running after a long day, if you’ve got a slight twinge in your foot, if you’ve had a heavy lunch, if you’ve had a recent breakup, if it’s raining, if it’s hot, if work has been stressful…. so much factors into our run and our pace, not just our effort. Yes, we should try to overcome these obstacles, but so too should we recognize that we are humans living amongst changing circumstances.
This mindset also robs you of gratitude and celebration. You may have run slowly, but you ran. You had the time. You had working legs. You had the dedication to get out there and get your vitamin D (if you’re an outside runner) and your runner’s high endorphins.
I find myself having a good run until I look at my pace and start comparing myself to myself or others. So, instead, I’m going to forget my pace. I’m going to run with a mindset to push myself and to celebrate a love of running, but not to circumscribe myself to some number.
Funny thing is, on a recent race, the Hotlanta Half, when I allowed myself to stop stressing about pace, I actually PR-ed. But I would have had a good race without that PR. The PR was the icing on the cake, but the run was the cake.
Don’t forget your cake (and maybe forget your pace every now and again)!
One of the things I love about running a marathon is the marathon training. If I didn’t love it, well, it would make me a very miserable person for 10+ weeks.
If you’re considering running a marathon, make sure you’re also considering training for a marathon.
What I mean is, while there are those rare people who probably can just wake up and run a marathon (and probably BQ too just to add insult to the rest of us mortals), most of us have to train for a marathon. And while the marathon is one day, marathon training will shape your life for the next 10-20 weeks. That’s a big commitment. Let’s take a look at some of what it entails….
There will be days where you turn down those office cookies because you’re marathon training and you want better fuel for your impeding run. There will be other days where you will eat 3 office cookies and anything else not nailed down because runger (runner-hunger) is real.
There will be the days you save money because you had to turn down a late night out with friends because of an early morning run the next day. There will also be the days when you spend that saved money on gu for your long run and new running shoes for all your many logged miles.
There will be the days you love running – those days when you can’t wait to run, when you don’t want to stop, when you finish your long run and then 5 minutes later wonder why you’re not still running and if throwing on a couple extra miles would throw off your training schedule. There will also be the days when everything hurts, all you want to do is take a nap, and you wonder what masochistic tendency made you voluntarily sign up to do this.
There will be the days you strength-train and feel good. There will be also be the days when you don’t strength train because why lift and make yourself sore for your run later when you could get in some extra miles now?
There will be the days when it’s hard to fit in a run – whether because of work or studies or relationships, you may have to get up at 4am to get those miles. There will also be the days when you get to go out to your favorite trail and can take however long you want for your long run, your stretching afterwards, and the nap when you pass out when you get home.
There will be the days when you spend more time clipping your toenails than any other personal hygiene. There will also be the days when you shower multiple times.
(I’m sparing you any picture of runner’s feet. Let’s face it – it’s not pretty.)
There will be the days when other people wonder if you do anything besides run. There will be the days when you wonder this too.
There will be the days of doubt. There will be the days of confidence.
And then, ultimately, there will be the day when you run 26.2 miles. And all of it, the good, the bad, and the strange, becomes worth it.
Running on sidewalks along roads can be great. It might be your only option if you live in a city, or you might be trying to switch up your running route. Like any running option though, it carries pros, cons, and revelations about life. Without further ado….
12 Things to Know if You Run on Sidewalks Along Roads
1. Your running route will never be boring.
Compared to a treadmill, running on a sidewalk is the conqueror of boredom. Now, I love getting into the treadmill groove as much as the next person, where you’re just pounding out the steps and the miles in an almost out-of-body state. (This might be a clever defense mechanism that my body developed – being in too much pain in-body, it sends me out…. ) Still, there are times when the treadmill is boring, the shows on the TVs are banal, and the gym is curiously devoid of Greek god-like athletes. On sidewalks, however, there will always be something to look at, whether its the people you pass or the cars that pass you. (If you’re passing the cars, kudos to you and your fast feet, my friend).
2. You will spend a lot of time looking down.
Unlike a treadmill, where you don’t have to look where you’re going (because you’re not going anywhere), you’ve got to be on alert on sidewalks. Cracks can do more than break your mother’s back – they can catch your toe and send you sprawling. You also have to be ready to dodge sticks, leaves, trash, puddles, and the occasional doggie present. It’s a regular obstacle race out there.
3. Your running route will never be the same.
You may have your favorite path to take and take it all the time, but it will almost never be the same. Was there a storm the night before? Now there’s a tree collapsed in your way. Has there not been garbage pickup for a week? That trashcan you pass is more ripe than your socks…. which is an impressive feat (see what I did there?). You can’t cross the same river twice, and you can’t run the same patch of sidewalk twice either.
4. You will get frustrated at walkers.
The rules of the sidewalk are the same as the road…. at least as far as I know. If I’m wrong, someone please correct me and my skewed perception. But, so far as I know, you walk on the right side of the sidewalk. If you’re passing, you pass on the left. I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the times an oncoming person has seen me coming and moved to their left, my right… right into my running path. If you’re coming from behind someone, it’s common courtesy to let people know you’re coming with cries of, “on your left,” “excuse me,” and “sweet mercy, please don’t make me slow down.” Sometimes, however, people don’t think you’re talking to them, for whatever reason, and will go on taking up the whole sidewalk. This often happens with two people walking abreast. I’m more impressed when just one person manages to pull off this feat of spacial alignment, particularly without an assist from a telephone pole, garbage can, or bus stop bench.
5. You will face sudden peril by car at some point.
I only cross streets at crosswalks. I only cross when the white walking man is lit up.
Despite every precaution – and sometimes some neon running gear – cars will fail to see me. I have had to slam my palm on a hood of a car and use that to propel my feet out of the way. Both the driver and I were very surprised. And that’s the point. We’re out running, and we see the cars. We expect the cars. Sadly, despite driving around a city and seeing people running, walking, biking, etc., cars don’t always expect runners. They turn only checking one direction of traffic. They turn focused on the ten other things they have to do that day. They turn while texting or checking a GPS. Watch out for cars, especially because they won’t always look out for you.
6. People in cars will get frustrated at you.
Even if you’ve got the right of way, cars will beep and honk. The people inside will yell or flick you off. I don’t know if they think you’re not going fast enough, or they don’t appreciate the effort you’re putting in. I like to think that these people aren’t runners, but the truth is that both runners and non-runners can be mean. It’s a human thing.
7. People in cars will be really nice to you.
People will slow down to allow you to cross the crosswalk at your pace. They’ll refrain from turning just to give you a chance to continue your run unimpeded. They’ll cheer you on when you’re dogging it up a hill. These people restore some of my hope for humanity and put a pep in my step.
8. You might have to run on the road at some point.
The trouble with running on sidewalks is…. sometimes they end. And I’m not talking about the Shel Silverstein book. Sometimes there are random patches where the sidewalk ends, only to be picked up later. If you know there are these patches, I suggest either a) avoiding them or b) running them only if the road isn’t highly traveled. Cars already forget about runners on sidewalks. You don’t want to give them any more opportunity to kiss your golden heels. However, sometimes you don’t know there’s a patch of missing sidewalk until you’re out running. In that case, make sure you do two things. 1) Make sure, when you get off the sidewalk, that there’s not a car coming. You don’t want to do anything unexpected. 2) If you can, run on the side facing oncoming traffic. This gives you and them a better chance to see (and avoid!) each other.
9. You should keep your headphones turned down.
You want to be able to hear what’s going on around you. This includes traffic, faster runners coming up from behind, and rampaging bears. Often cars are honking at each other – and when they do I jump practically five feet – but it’s better to be on the safe side. Also, you’re running outside: Enjoy the sounds! The wind, the birds, the sounds of people talking…. let that be your soundtrack now and again. You connect more with what’s around you, and you experience your run more fully.
10. You will be extremely self-conscious at least once.
You’re running in a public place. I mean, sure, gyms are public places too. But there everyone is kinda doing their own thing. When you’re running on a sidewalk, cars driving will stare at you. Especially if they’re caught in traffic and there’s nothing better to keep their eyes on…. like, um, the road?! Sometimes this phenomenon can make you faster. My brain says, “People are watching, so I’m going to trounce this hill!” Other times, I’m discouraged. “I’m already going slow, which I have XYZ reason for, but now they’re going to think I’m not a REAL runner.” It makes me feel like I can’t take a break, even if I need one. The important thing to realize is that, yes, people are probably watching, but they’re also probably watching less than you think. And they’re probably not critiquing your running form.
11. You will cultivate a love of beauty, hopefully.
You’re going to be passing houses, landscaping, buildings, people. You have a chance to see flowers in bloom and out of bloom, yards fresh with the night’s snow or dew, beautiful houses, eclectic houses, and everything in between. Sometimes all it takes is seeing a yellow flower to send me smiling.
12. You will feel a part of a greater community.
It’s one thing to feel like part of the running community when you’re pounding out your miles on your own. It’s another to be plodding along and see another runner coming at you in the distance. You pick up your pace. You feel a pep in your step again. As you pass each other, you nod or smile or raise a hand in greeting. Sometimes all you can muster is the fraternal huff of breath in each other’s general direction. But for that moment, you were by someone who understood.
BONUS: 13. You will likely experience something unexpected.
Which, now that I’ve told you, does it become expected? Ha but in all seriousness, we runners are really good at planning and self-discipline. We have our weekly mileage plans, our training plans, even just our I’d-like-to-get-in-a-run-this-morning plans. When you run outside on a sidewalk along a road, you give the unexpected a chance to insert itself.
Just recently, I was trying a new route. At about mile 4, I passed a lending library. Rather than keep trucking, I stopped and found one of my favorite books! It was completely worth running the rest of my mileage with a book in hand. If you allow the unexpected into your plan, you never know what you might find! Now I’ve just got to return with a book to share……..
Recently, someone asked me about my running and exclaimed, “How do you have time for that?”
In the life of a 2L, this is a VERY valid question. I wake up around 7am and keep working pretty steadily until 10/11pm. Lunches are taken over a textbook or the computer screen. Where breaks happen, they consist of talking to a friend in the library, walking home, or (if I’m being honest) checking Facebook. Other “breaks” from studying, researching, and writing consist of going to meetings, planning meetings, and cleaning up from meetings. Sometimes I don’t know where I’m going to find the time for all of my daily duties, let alone a run.
But then, I love running. You make time for the things you love. I make time to run, to read, to spend time with friends because I love those activities and those people. We were made to have and follow our passions and our interests. Now, I’m interested in law. I get very passionate about criminal justice. But I’m not a one-sided human being, and I have to feed all parts of myself.
So, how do you make time for running?
1. Let it be a break
Rather than run early in the morning (which is very nice, I grant you), I run in the afternoon. That’s usually when my brain is complaining and my willpower is starting to sag. Dashing out for a jaunt around the block is just what I need to make me feel that I’ve accomplished something and to give me the energy to come back swinging.
2. Or go in the morning or late evening.
Time it before or after your day and its duties come into your life. If you run in the morning, you’ve gotten your run before the “day” has really started. If you run in the evening, you can process the day. Sometimes you have to watch out for the sunset though – but if you have access to a treadmill, there’s not a lot of gym competition for a treadmill around 9/10pm.
3. Break it up.
Can’t find an hour to go run? Go out for 30 minutes. Or 20. Or whatever time you have. You’ll feel better for having gone out. And, if you want to hit a certain mileage, you can make up those miles later in the day – maybe do a morning and evening run.
4. Make it productive.
Do you have a book you’ve been wanting to read? A sermon you’ve been wanting to listen to? When you can’t make time for each activity on its own, throw on a pair of earbuds and combine them. I made some serious headway on Les Miserables on my last long run.
5. Make it restorative.
Sometimes we get so busy that we don’t stop and reflect on what’s going on in our lives, in our studies, in our heads. Running gives you the space you need to process.
(6. Don’t shower afterwards)
I’m mostly joking on this one, but hey, it sure does save time. An hour run can turn into 1.5-2 hours once you add in stretching, showering, and clothing/hair. Not to mention fueling. Cut out the shower, throw on 20 squirts of body spray, and you just saved yourself a ton of time. Just don’t stand too close to anyone.