Changing Direction: Making the Old New Again
For me, one of the best parts of running is traveling to random locations for races and the opportunity to run in those areas. Inevitably, I end up seeing a version of an area that I just wouldn’t get to experience if I was driving through or committing to a normal tourist experience. In a sense, I’m in part motivated by the opportunity to travel, and often extend a race trip into a full-fledged vacation. However, these trips account for a very small percentage of the miles I log, which leaves me to run a majority of my miles close to home.
As many of you can no doubt attest, you’d love to be able to travel to new locations for each of your training runs. There is just something much more magical about running in a new location and exploring as you run. For me, the miles seem to melt away as my senses are engaged in the surroundings. I’m constantly cataloging the sights, sounds, and smells for future reference. However, like most of you, I’m relatively busy between work, friends, and my new-found mandatory passion for home maintenance and upkeep. Thus, I regularly leave my house with the intent of “squeezing in” a quick run so I don’t fall behind on my training and I don’t waste any additional time that could otherwise be spent attending to the 100 other things on my to-do list. The result is a regular regurgitation of the same routes I know and am comfortable running.
Before I started running, I couldn’t give you directions in my small midwestern town to save my life. Unless you were asking how to get somewhere on campus, I was clueless. I regularly remind friends and family that I consider myself directionally challenged and they probably don’t want me navigating. However, since running, I’ve discovered just about every corner and every hidden street, alley, backroad, cul-da-sac, and dead end that the town has to offer. If you ask me how to get somewhere in town now, I’m more likely to giving you running/walking directions than driving directions. This new found expertise also means I can plan out a route very quickly for just about any distance because I know the numbers so well.
My familiarity with just about every street and every route around has lately left me feeling a bit bored with the scenery of my runs. I’ve started to give thought to how I can mix things up without going out of my way to get in the car and drive somewhere new to run. Ultimately, I realized it might just be as simple as changing direction. I’ve started to run some of my normal routes backwards and with new short-cuts and long-cuts, altering my path just enough, and it has been great! The result has been seeing the things around me through new eyes and from a new perspective. I’ve noticed things about the world around me that I had taken for granted before, and it has been a lot of fun in the process.
This change to my routine got me thinking about the bigger picture and the challenge of keeping my running fresh, and I realized that the idea of changing direction applies much more broadly as well. We all end up getting a little stagnant every once in a while after running for so long and training so hard for various races. Sometimes we don’t feel as motivated, or the weather isn’t exactly as we want it, or something came up in our day and we don’t have as much time. Those are the moments when it’s even more important to get out on the road (or trail!). Those are the moments when escaping into a new world we’ve never seen before but was right under our noses the whole time can be just what we need to keep the spark alive. Sometimes making the old new again is the refreshing reminder of why we run in the first place!