The Life of a Runner

How many of these quotes sound familiar?

“Okay- if I get up at 5, I can be running by 5:15, in the shower at 6:05, in my car at 6:40, Starbucks 6:50… to work by 7:10.”

“I’ll work through lunch, then leave at 4:45, hopefully the 3:00 won’t go over. Then, run at 5, pick my kids up at 6.”

“I’ll be gone five days- this means I need at least four shirts, two shorts, socks. I’ll pack my shoes in my carry on; I can buy new clothes if necessary.“

As runners, we are planners. We plan what to eat before and after runs. We plan routes. We investigate bathroom locations on these routes.  And of course, we plan for races- where they will be, how we will train for them, what goals we have for ourselves. Heck, we even plan our next races while we are in the midst of races. Dare I say our minds put in as many miles as our feet.

And this is a good thing- because I really do think that such intense planning helps us be more organized in our lives.  We know that in order to get our runs in, we have to make the other areas of our lives go as smoothly as possible. Our laundry must be done.  Our apparel needs to match the weather conditions.  We require water, Gatorade, and healthy snacks in our desk drawers, gym bags and cars.  We need to monitor the weather and have back up treadmills or tracks lined up just in case.

These are all things we can control, and might I say that many of us take pride in the little systems we establish.  And, we are also pretty darn good at adjusting to the blurps that enter that picture and interfere with our perfectly planned schedules- surprise meetings at work, out of town travel, sick kids, sick selves, family parties (the nerve to schedule a birthday party at 6… really what’s wrong with 7 to allow for a quick run?).  Bottom line, as efficient as we think our mental Runberry’s are… we can’t control everything.  Sometimes we find we need to… skip a run!   Which we all know is not something we like to do.

This leads me to wonder how the other half lives.  What do people who don’t (obsessively) run or work out do with their days? What do they do with those extra hours in the morning? What’s it like to not have loads and loads of smelly laundry in addition to “regular” laundry?  How does it feel to go to bed on a Friday night and not set an alarm? Go ahead and have that second glass of wine at dinner?  Are their workdays less stress-filled, because they are not concerned about adjusting schedules before or after for a run? Do their shoulders hurt less for the lack of a gym back lugged around each day? Seriously!

While considering this way of life, I found myself thinking that not setting an alarm might be nice. Leaving the house with only a laptop case would be kind of a treat too. Less laundry- definitely a plus.

But then I thought about the other side of the story. By sleeping in, I would miss gorgeous sunrises over the lake. I wouldn’t experience the fresh air that wakes me up more than any Venti strong could do justice. I wouldn’t be energized in the afternoon after a lunch workout.  My Saturdays would still begin at 9… but this time I wouldn’t begin with 14 miles under my belt. And, last but not least, if I didn’t run around like a maniac to do what I loved, I would also miss all of the people that I run around with. My 6:30 a.m. running friend, my friends I see on our route, my once weekly run with my childhood friend.

All of these things… are worth getting out of bed for.

There’s a challenge here, though. Could it be possible that as runners we plan too much? Are we too hard on ourselves? When our mothers and husbands and concerned secretaries at work tell us we “need to get more rest”- are they right? I think the answer is an astoundingly clear “yes and no.” Yes, we may plan too much… perhaps it wouldn’t kill us to get off schedule every now and then. Give ourselves a break and go to that party, guilt free, instead of running. Or, God forbid, just go home one night and relax after work. There’s a concept worth considering.

But then again- I have to say that, as long as we do things within reason (the author credits her father here for this well said proclamation), our frenetic schedules aren’t that bad.  I like to think that when I have my runs planned, I pay more attention to planning my life as well. I think I’m a bit more prepared- in all senses of the word. I’m prepared in a day-to-day operations kind of way, keeping my own personal business going. I’m prepared physically- staying in shape, making sure I’m properly nourished and hydrated. And, most importantly, I’m prepared emotionally… because for me, running helps me keep all of the above, and everything else together.  And as we all know, that’s not the easiest thing to do, no matter what your situation is.

So, to all of you who have next week’s run schedule already outlined in your heads, your laundry in the dryer, your trunk full of the water you just stocked up on during your weekend trip to Target… pat yourselves on the back.  You may think you’re just preparing for your runs, but in reality, all of this planning is helping you be ready for the other things in life that come up that you don’t plan for. And we all know there are plenty of those, both bad and good.

Keep making plans for that which you enjoy friends, but always remember to save enough space in your day planners for the unexpected.

Copyright 2010

by abbey algiers

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