I set goals.
Love making to-do lists.
I am what you might call, competitive.
I carefully plan my distances and set schedules for running pace.
Making plans appeals to my inner-type A and I enjoy putting in the time to hit my goals and savor the feeling of pride each time I've accomplished one. I never thought I would run a race without being fully prepared and (gasp) actually enjoy it.
I set up my race schedule in January this year, like I do every year (of course I need a plan a year in advance). 2013 included a half marathon in March. This course was flat and designed for PR's, and I had a mind to take advantage of that. I set up a schedule full of interval, tempo, and hill workouts to build strength and speed in preparation for what was sure to be my PR. Unfortunately time was not on my side and due to a series of events out of my control, I ended up being happy when I was able to squeak in a 30 minute run. Needless to say, I was not happy. I debated for months about running the race and whether it would be "worth it" if I knew I wouldn't PR.
I asked my boyfriend for advice for weeks. He brought up a great point; "Don't you run for fun anyway?" It got me thinking that I was losing track of why I started running - enjoyment. Ultimately, I decided to run the race with no goals and just to enjoy each mile.
Lining up at the half marathon, I took a deep breath and promised myself to stay true to my goal: reel in my competitive side and avoid injury. The race started in a park and finished in a park on opposite sides of a beautiful lake with perfect temperatures (low 50's and partly sunny). I focused on each step, breathing deeply enjoying my surroundings, and the spectators cheering from the sidelines. I ended up finishing the race 18 minutes slower than my PR, but I must admit it ended up being one of my favorite races.
I wasn't worried about pace or catching the person in front of me, and just enjoyed the movement of running and listening to my body. Looking through pictures that were taken of me during the race, there was an easy state of enjoyment, rather than determination tinged with pain, and it was clear that I was enjoying myself.
Advice that is typically given to runners is "You can't know where you’re going, if you don't have goals on how to get there". I agree for the most part, but I do think many runners (including myself) are also too hard on themselves to get a PR or run a specific distance on a certain day. We need to enjoy the process of putting one foot in front of (or technically underneath) another, limit distractions such as a beeping watch and iPod full of music and spend more time listening to our breathing, our footsteps, and appreciating the beauty that is running.
About the Author: Erin Nielsen is a SKORA ambassador, certified personal trainer, with a Masters Degree in Health Promotion. When not helping others become healthier individuals, Erin is most likely running, reading, or enjoying the beautiful outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.