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The Beauty of Running Without Agenda

Want to hear a dirty secret about me? I think metrics are overrated. That’s right, I said it: all those metrics we, as runners, obsess over and fret about and share on Strava – pace, splits, heart rate, cadence, elevation gain, vertical oscillation, etc., etc. – are meaningless if we have forgotten our reason for running. Before you close the browser and secretly-not-so-secretly think to yourself, “well, I’ll never work with HER”, hear me out.

More specifically, hear what I’m not saying: I’m NOT saying that metrics shouldn’t be used, or that they aren’t an important part of any training plan, or that you shouldn’t be proud when you hit that PR. But tell me this: when was the last time you hit the road (or trail) without your GPS activated, or an eye on your mile splits, or a specific mileage in mind? When did you last finish a run not by frantically hitting “stop” on your watch, or checking your heart rate, but by drawing in a deep breath of fresh air and reveling in having worked up a sweat? There’s no shame in enjoying the metrics of your runs – hey, we all enjoy seeing our accomplishments in hard numbers – but what we sometimes miss when we are focused on the numbers is the simple beauty of having the ability to run in the first place.


It's taboo for me, as a running coach, to say that I rarely track my workouts. But then again, I’ve never been what I would call a metrics-driven runner. Oh, I can talk metrics until I’m blue in the face, and they are – as a coach – incredibly important and useful in tracking my clients’ progress and goals. But for me, running has and always will be primarily about the art of letting go. Letting go of my daily stresses, letting go of my insecurities and worries. I run because I can, because it makes me feel good, because I’m a better mom, wife, friend, and employee when I’ve done this one small thing for my health. And not to wax poetically, but running without specific goals or a set destination allows me to see that there is a whole lot of beauty out there – you just have to be willing to, almost literally, stop and smell the roses without worrying about also stopping your GPS.


Have you ever watched kids run? They don't worry about splits or pace, and they definitely don't think about heart rate zones or VO2Max. They run because it feels good, because they get to act a little crazy and use some of their seemingly-endless energy. And when kids get tired of running? They stop. They don’t stress about only running 4.95 miles instead of 5.0, they don’t worry that they didn’t hit negative splits. They just worry about what they’re going to do next.


Remember, too, that there are plenty of people in this world who quite literally are not able to run – due to a physical limitation, a societal restriction, or a total dearth of knowledge of or access to physical fitness education – so those of us who are able to run whenever we want should consider ourselves fortunate. And if that ability is taken away from us, we quickly remember how lucky we once were. If you’ve ever been sidelined by injury, you know what I’m talking about: that jealousy whenever you see someone jogging along the sidewalk while you coast by in your car, sad and injured and craving a good old-fashioned long run.


I’m not advocating for a world of metrics-less runners – what a chaotic racing season that would cause. But I do suggest picking a day every week or two and going on a directionless run. Just lace up, head out, and see where your feet take you. You might find that you notice more about your surroundings, you might find new routes and neighborhoods. And you might rediscover what got you into running in the first place.

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Regan Brunette
Regan Brunette
Mar 06, 2022

This is great! I find my most liberating runs can be ones where I leave the technology behind and just go. An idea I got from Coach Kate, I might add.

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katemarden
katemarden
Mar 07, 2022
Replying to

Haha very glad Coach Kate's words of relative wisdom are helping! :)

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