Me: Man that run was really fun!
RP: I agree, it was nice not to have a plan and to just do whatever
Me: This makes me remember the joy of running!
That conversation got me thinking. Hmmm, the joy of running vs enjoying running. It seems likes it is just semantics, but for me there is a real difference between them
So what is the difference?
Here is an example: The other day I did a run with a friend that went like this:
"How many miles we doing"...... "
"Ok, I could go up to 10"
"Where we going".....
"Idk, why don't we go up that road and loop around"...
"Hey, lets cross the pedestrian bridge to cross 28" ...
"great, sounds good" "Oh hey, I didn't realize that is where the brewery was at, huh..."
"Wanna do that road that runs parallel to the highway",
"Yeah, we haven't been there in awhile"
"Hey, look at those big stairs, where do they go?" ....
"Want to go up them?"
Well, you get the drift! Literally every intersection was a brand new decision to make. We saw beautiful old homes, went up 5 sets of stairs, climbed a couple monster hills, saw new (to me) views of the city and scored a Christmas party invite for an event at a local historical property. And it was a run full of joy. No plan, nothing but adventure! We stopped and talked to people, we would change direction just to go check out some cool architecture, and we talked of nothing serious the whole way. The feeling that I had upon finishing was akin to the sense of zen you get at the end of yoga mixed with the elation of a great accomplishment. And I can honestly say that that is not how I feel during or after my typical day to day runs.
See, like most people, I stick with what I know and go off of what my plan says. As running has become an integral part of my life, it has also become scripted. I need to do 7 miles at a 8:40 pace with hills. Great, I know what route I comfortable with, where I know it is lit and I know what kind of people and traffic I will have to deal with. I know where every road goes and have no chance of being turned around or lost.
Following the script is comforting. I still enjoy my runs (even the crappy ones) and look forward to getting out there and reaping the benefits of running, but more often then not I do not feel the joy of running when I am done. I may feel like a badass after a hard pace run, or feel a great sense of pride after hitting a new distance, but it isn't that sense of joy. Routine has gotten rid of that. I still enjoy doing it and am happy afterwards, but it is not the same feeling. That feeling of being free, like I am a kid again running through the fields trying to catch horny toads.
Now, this summer I had a chance to run without the script, but I was travelling constantly for 6 weeks to unknown places, every run was an exploration. That is not real life most of the time. Until I win that big lottery, being a professional traveler who runs is just not an option. And quite frankly, I need scripted runs. I need routine, I need a plan to help me push through to that PR. I need to know where I am going when I want to get lost in thought while I run, I need to feel comfortable that I will be safe when I am running alone as it gets dark, and that I will be minimally harassed during my runs. HOWEVER, I also want that sense of utter joy.
But here is the kicker, I don't know that you can plan a spontaneous for the joy of running run. Or can you? The annual Fleet Feet holiday lights run just came and went. I know the route, and I even know most of the things it swings by. But, I also know we sang songs, stopped and to take silly photos at all the places and there was a sense of joy from everyone around. There was no seriousness. It was a joy of running run. So maybe they can be planned. Maybe once every other week or so one of those aerobic runs or recovery runs can be renamed as a Joy of Running run, a run where I meet up with friends and we explore a new neighborhood, or we stop and take photo's of all the street art that is around here, or we make it a scavenger hunt of sorts. Or, if I can't find someone who can... I can do those things on my own. Maybe, just maybe I can have my cake and eat it too. I can have my script, my routine and still find joy in my sport. I think I will try it out. As I get into my next training plan, an aggressive 16 week plan for Boston, I will make sure that I keep some joy of running runs in there to break up script and keep my mind and spirit in a joyful place.