There was a period of time where it seemed like every time I drove anywhere in my town I’d see the same woman out running. She just had that ultra-runner look about her. Long, braided hair, water bottles strapped to both hands, functional running clothes that you could tell were strictly for running – no athleisure wear here.
I’ve met her a couple of times now as our kids started doing some of the same activities, the most recent being this weekend at a day-long wrestling tournament. We talked about running almost the entire day.
“I never train,” she said, “and I never race.”
In September when I met her at the finish line of a local 10k we talked about what to expect at the marathon I had coming up as she’d run it several times under a couple of different race directors. Last weekend I learned that it’s not unusual for her to run a marathon several months in a row – “If you’re always running marathons, you’re always in shape to run marathons,” is what she told me.
This woman has run Boston twice, and both of her BQ marathons she said happened because she just felt good those days. They were unplanned.
When she says she doesn’t train and doesn’t race, what she means is that she just runs a lot because she likes it and it makes her feel good. Sometimes she runs in organized events and sometimes she runs on the streets in our neighborhood.
I’ve been on some kind of training plan for over a year now. This week is the final week of a 10k plan, and next week I jump right into a marathon plan. For now, I enjoy working toward goal races, but this is a new thing for me.
When I started running in my 20s I was running 10 minute miles whether I meant to run fast or slow that day. What made me faster wasn’t tempo runs or fartleks or VO2 max workouts — it was consistency that came from just plain liking to run. I made some friends who were a little faster than me who wanted to run every day at the same moderate-to-hard effort, and I ran with them almost every weekday for a couple of years. No goal races and no training plans.
In my current running life, every run has a purpose with an end goal in mind and I’m having a lot of fun with that. But it was good to be reminded of the other ways that running brings satisfaction. It’s not an either/or situation where I either run for fun or I run to compete. When I’m doing it right, I run because the runs individually make me feel good and make my day better. The run itself is it’s own reward.