A Lesson in Freedom

Schedules. Blackberries. Deadlines.

In the words of William Wordsworth, the world can be too much with us. Our lives become so busy, our to-do lists so long, that our training can become just another thing to grudgingly check off.

runninginwoodsLast Friday I left the office late – around 6:45pm – a true injustice heading into the weekend. I had planned to head to one of my favorite running routes after work – the off-road trail in Stone Mountain Park (following connecting trails to the Cherokee Trail). Linking the trail with a little section of the PATH, I can get in a solid 7 mile run. Upon changing into my running clothes at the office, I realized my faithful Timex Ironman was nowhere to be found. As any runner addicted to their watch would react, I was beyond annoyed and, coupled with the 10.5 hr work day and approaching dusk, contemplated canning the run altogether and heading home to my porch and a cold Sweetwater.

Grudgingly, I headed to the trail head anyway – watchless and frustrated. I started my run wanting to check the last to-do off my list for the week. But somewhere along the way, I had a reality check. I’m not doing intervals, I’m not chasing a PR, I’m just a girl running in the woods with no one to impress but the squirrels.

I am completely capable with legs, lungs, shoes and heart. I don’t need to constantly check my progress or judge my performance. Why do we always put this pressure on ourselves? I am very competitive and love to challenge myself, but some days it is just about doing something good for ourselves, experiencing that joy that running can bring us.

In Christopher McDougall’s 2009 running cult classic Born to Run he describes the “real secret” of the Running People he visited. (Many of you may be familiar with this work of nonfiction, but if you haven’t read it, do it. Seriously. Whether you are an ultramarathoner or prefer casual two-mile jogs, it will inspire you.)

“…The Tarahumara… they’d never forgotten what it felt like to love running. They remembered that running was mankind’s first fine art, our original act of inspired creation. Way before we were scratching pictures on caves or beating rhythms on hollow trees, we were perfecting the art of combining our breath and mind and muscles into fluid self-propulsion over wild terrain.”

And that’s when it hit me – out there on that trail, watchless and not so frustrated anymore, I was free. Free of schedules and free of a clock’s impending pressure. Free to breathe deep and move my body, free to leap around rocks or trip on roots. The 10.5 hr workday and everything my stressful week carried with it became null and void. It didn’t matter how fast or slow I ran today or when I finished, it just mattered that I was out there.

2 comments Add your comment

Daniel Norton

April 28th, 2010
11:44 am

There are few things that can be more rejuvenating than an watch-free run. Even in the middle of a brutal training cycle, I’ll make time for a completely unplugged run where I leave behind the watch, iPod, and even my cellphone. It reminds me that I run simply because I love running.

[...] check these out if you can! Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. I have mentioned this book in an earlier post, but can’t say enough good things about it. In his quest to learn why he is always suffering [...]