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.