What’s Your Ideal Run?

It happened again on Easter morning.  I set out for a typical run and ended with an ideal one: the light-footed, lighthearted, I’m-barely-winded variety that end too quickly rather than drag on till time is up, fatigue sets in, or motivation wanes.  After a typical run, you might say Whooey, glad I got out there or Gee, I feel better.  (Apparently, Runner You speaks like you’re from the 1950s).

After an ideal run, you want to bellow as if from the rooftops to no one at all I love running!  I love life!  I’m going to run a marathon!  (Now, you are not only from the 1950s but in a musical, shouting to a neighbor character quaintly hanging her laundry from a balcony).  And any of these are preferable to the self-pitying garbage you say after a terrible run.  Usually there are expletives and ice packs–possibly ice cream.  I like to blame my sneakers or the wind on those days.  Because that’s effective, right?  Blaming the wind.  

I set out yesterday morning at break-even: I was christening a new pair of Nike Frees (potentially ideal), and a strong wind was coming off the ocean (potentially terrible).  I was in my hometown of Falmouth, MA, where I was visiting the family (and family chickens) for Easter, mostly running along the Falmouth Road Race course, a picturesque 7.2 miles stretching from Woods Hole to Falmouth Heights Beach.  No sooner had I started mentally griping that it was a little windy, and a bit cold, and I was hungry, that something clicked.  My griping brain hushed, and something else took its place for 8.5 miles.

Something quiet and fun, speedy and spacious, and full of gratitude.  The chatter about the wind and hunger faded, and the actual, present-moment experience of running remained.  Think of this state as a moving meditation–something akin to what athlete’s call being “in the zone,” and it can’t be manufactured.

Its probability can be cultivated.  Certain characteristics, when aligned right for an individual runner, can help result in an ideal run, the kind where PRs or life epiphanies or pure joy happen.  We can never control all the conditions surrounding any run, on race day, Easter morning, or a garden variety Monday, but there’s something to be said for knowing and visualizing your ideal, right down to what you’re wearing and the route you’d run.  Because if you don’t know what the ideal running conditions are, how can you create the ideal run?

Naturally, our mental state is most important, with an internal focus on the run’s purpose and an adaptability to the external elements.  When the two merge, typical becomes ideal, and you feel like you can run forever.

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  • Dan

    Along the Charles, Cambridge side, running from the BU to Harvard bridge, sun rising over Boston.

    • http://www.omgal.com omgal

      Stunning, Dan. I know it well. Enjoy!

    • Nat

      The BEST!

  • Natasha

    I know it doesn’t sound ideal, and you have to get psyched up to do it, but running early in the morning on one of those drizzly cool, but not too cold, days I always felt light. Even my dog would eventually give in and go with it after awhile! It also helps that no one else wants to be out in that kind of weather!

    • http://www.omgal.com omgal

      I totally get it, Natasha. I like how runners often give each other a respectful little nod on those mornings.

  • http://www.thesongmysoulsings.blogspot.com Belinda Youll

    A crisp autumn (of fall as some of you know it : ) morning with blue skies and sunshine, through the Sydney botanical gardens, past the Opera house and around to the Sydney Harbour bridge. Spectacular…

    • http://www.omgal.com omgal

      That sounds pretty magical, Belinda! Thank you for reading OG all the way in Oz. Many happy runs to you!

    • Ted

      Belinda, that was my run for a couple years too. How I miss running through the botanical gardens, the domain and past Lady Macquaries chair. One of my favorite places to run. Glad to hear some else enjoyed it as much as me.
      Also love having my running gear in my suitcase when I travel. It’s fun running in a city you have never been before and you are making your path as you go!

  • Nicole

    ooh that wind – I find myself cursing it often OUT LOUD. As if that’s going to help.
    My ideal run involves little wind, pouring rain, and the route includes some of my favorite parts of the city: the Greenway, the Esplanade, the Comm Ave Mall, the Public Garden, and lastly, racing through Downtown Crossing for the final stretch.

  • http://www.wasntit.com Gabriel Cattani

    I was thinking about this along yesterday’s run… which were pretty decent conditions here in New England. As one who runs outside regardless of conditions, I enjoy them most when I feel I’ve planned enough time ahead in my schedule. It’s easier to relax and enjoy the moment when you don’t feel the pressure to ‘get it done’ and move onto the next thing… no different than being able to sit down and enjoy a nice meal… which is healthier anyway. But apart from that I really like my summertime runs in the Swiss Alps with the added effects of high-altitude. I do a route which sends me 600m up and then back down. Lungs pretty much scream on the way up, and legs take it on the descent, but when I return here to sea level that first run is beyond effortless! Happy running to you! Aloha!

  • http://spiritualwoodstock.com/spiritual-awakening/ Karuna from The Gathering

    I love running when the sun is just rising over any beach! And, YES, barefoot!


  • Linda

    Temps in the 40′s and crisp air…. just after sunrise…. along the Charles River – from the Longfellow to Harvard Square if I have the time. The city is just waking up (and I don’t need to feed the parking meter yet!).

    And if I’m lucky…. a yoga class later on in the day! :)

  • Sarah

    This past Saturday, I had an ideal run. There was perfect weather (cool) and perfect timing (early morning), and perfect location (always along a body of water). What made it ideal, though, was the good vibe in the air amongst all the other runners that were out and about. Nothing fuels a run quite like the great, big collective happiness of marathon weekend.

    I saw serious athletes keeping limber before their big race, and people who were outside for the first time this spring. All ages, all abilities, and all shades of neon fabric just doing their thing.

  • http://www.inncercalmrx.com Erin

    Hi Rebecca!
    My favorite run is a long one in San Francisco, along Fort Mason, Crissy Field, through the Presidio, then across the Golden Gate Bridge and back. Chilly, windy, hilly, usually sunny, and always invigorating, this is my favorite run. I love seeing the edge of our continent, with the Pacific Ocean spreading out as far as my eyes can see. Afterwards, I grab my yoga mat from the car for some solo post-run yoga before getting a coffee and heading home!