Running Without a Plan

One day last week I decided to run without a plan. I wanted to break free from the marathon training plan and just run, as in head out the door with no preplanned route, no watch, no idea of where I wanted to go, how far, how long, and how fast. It had been so long since I had done this, and less than six weeks out from the marathon the idea of running without a plan actually made me somewhat nervous.

Just to change up the game plan, I even wore a running skirt.

Of course I couldn’t leave the Garmin home (I wanted to know my distance), but I did take a completely new route. Since our house is just a mile or so from downtown, we’re completely surrounded by very busy roads. Depending on the time of day, crossing these very busy roads means either playing Frogger with traffic or playing it safe and waiting forever at the traffic lights. In my neighborhood, it’s not always so easy to simply head out the front door and start running, but it’s not impossible either.

The cooler temperatures call my name these days, and now that fall is in the air all I want to do is hit the pavement. After complaining all summer long about how hot it was (hottest summer on record!) I feel I owe it to the Weather Gods to get outside and enjoy these beautiful blue sky days. We might still have green leaves on the trees for another month or so, but it is nevertheless officially fall, and I plan to celebrate that.

The run also coincided with a new version of the running shoes I wear, and I was hoping they hadn’t changed them too much. I used to wear another brand, but my feet were not happy with the new version that came out, and was part of the reason I switched over to something more minimal in the first place. That, and a bad case of plantar fasciitis.

 (Michael Friedhoff)


I didn’t notice any difference between the old shoes and the new ones, other than the color. They felt slightly roomier, but not enough to make a difference.


 (Michael Friedhoff)

So I set out. I ran down past the fire station and kept going up towards the lake. At the last minute I decided to head north instead of going to the lake, where I run all the time, and take a completely different route. I hardly looked at the Garmin. I passed walkers with dogs and mothers with strollers, and a few runners who nodded hello as we passed each other. Everyone was happy to be outdoors. I wondered if anyone else was running without a plan.

When I got to 2.5 miles I decided to turn around and head home. I didn’t want to go too far since I was running 16 early the next morning.

There were no mountains or rivers or forests on my run, just a lot of paved roads through a pretty, urban neighborhood. But running without a plan was nice for a change. It gave me a chance to be alone with my thoughts, and most of them were thoughts of how fortunate I am to be healthy and active. Pace was irrelevant. The run was a good reminder of what running is really all about: body and mind working together, in tandem, doing what it was meant to do.

No plan needed.

I’ve been reading a lot lately about staying in the present moment, and I was cognizant of that as I ran back towards the house. Rather than worry about how much farther I had to go, and look at the watch constantly to check my pace, I tried to stay right where I was–just running. The miles behind me were already done, and the ones ahead of me were out of reach. All I had to do was focus on  running the next step, then the next, over and over, and not worry about what was to come or what had already happened.

So I guess running is nothing more than a metaphor for life. You keep putting one foot in front of the other, over and over, and stay present in the moment. If the miles were tough leading up to the present, you try not to let them hold you back. You wouldn’t go back to run them over again anyway. There are still miles to be run, but you don’t worry about them. You know you’ll get there eventually. All you have to do is put one foot in front of the other and get the job done.

And plan or no plan, you do get the job done, every run, every day.

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