A Blissful Run Was What I Needed

My view of the harbor for most of my run. (Source: visitmaine.net)

My view of the harbor for most of my run. (Source: visitmaine.net)

Last Friday I went for a 6-mile run. My plan told me to go at an easy pace (10:40/mile) but lately my easy paces have been sub-9:00/mile. I decided to set out and do what I could to enjoy the run.

I was on vacation with my family in southern Maine, a place we’ve gone every summer since I can remember. Before I became a runner in March 2012, I cherished walking along the beach, through the harbor, up by the lighthouse, and around a secluded island connected to the harbor by what us locals call “the Wiggly Bridge.”

Walking to all of these locations in a single walk would take light-years but now, by running, I can string together all of my favorite routes in Maine to weave a perfect run, which is exactly what I did last Friday.

I left my family’s beach house before they woke up and headed toward the harbor. There’s a pretty tough half-mile-long hill before getting to the harbor but I climbed it knowing the view I was going to get at the top would be worth it. And it so was. The harbor was beautiful and the park that sits overlooking the inlet is even better.

I then ran down the back end of the hill to a gravel path that runs along the docks for about a mile. All of the fishermen had already left port but some boats, the beautiful sailboats, were left anchored.

I came across one other runner on the path and some very friendly dogs before I came to the Wiggly Bridge. The suspension bridge is awkward enough to walk on because its rot iron rusted supports literally wiggle, causing the whole bridge to shake. But with almost no one around me, except a man fishing off the coast, I loved how much noise my pounding feet made as I crossed the bridge.

Photo of the Wiggly Bridge from last winter.

Photo of the Wiggly Bridge from last winter.

I was looking forward to the other side of the bridge because it would be a mile of trails through this tiny island. I’m slow on trails because I’m extra vigilant about my footing but this gave me an opportunity to truly appreciate where I was running. The quiet. The smell of the ocean. The absolute bliss.

By the time I made it around the small island and back to the gravel harbor path, more people were out walking and running. I’ve never seen so many happy people on my run. Everyone said good morning and gave the runner’s wave. After I came out the other end of the trail I decided to run down by the beach and take a break. I wasn’t tired, I just wanted to look out on the water for a while. Coincidentally, I came across another runner, an Ironman actually, who had decided to do the exact same thing. People were just getting to the beach but it felt like the town was beginning to wake up.

I ran up to the park again and had about a mile and a half left. This had been one of the most enjoyable runs I’d gone on in a long time. I felt no pressure for pace, I didn’t bring any music, I didn’t even have my phone. It was just me, the road, and the quiet.

With my run almost over, I was looking forward to getting home and heading to the beach for the day with my family. But I couldn’t believe how great I felt. As I rounded to corner to head back to our house, I stopped my Garmin (OK, I wasn’t completely running “naked”) and checked my splits.

So much for 10:40/mile pace:

Mile 1: 8:57/mile

Mile 2: 8:44/mile

Mile 3: 9:16/mile (I told you I was slow on trails!)

Mile 4: 9:01/mile

Mile 5: 8:29/mile

Mile 6: 8:14/mile

With the exception of the trail mile, I was completely shocked at my paces. I didn’t feel like I was working that hard, and I certainly wasn’t exhausted, but my paces were some of my fastest paces for a 6-mile training run ever.

I don’t know if it was the ocean air, the quiet, or just running in some of my favorite places but I needed this run. I had been feeling very tired lately and run down from training but this run reinvigorated me. It brought me back to the reason I love running. It was sheer bliss.

The argument for running naked

Scandalous, I know. But running naked may be the change you need to enhance your running routine. I’m not talking about ditching your shorts and t-shirt, but taking out the earbuds, leaving the phone at home and taking your eyes off of the television. Running without technology can help you get in touch with yourself as a runner and teach you to focus solely on your run.

Since I started my running routine, I always wore headphones and listened to music. Mostly because I was using an app on my phone to train but also because I thought I’d get bored just running with nothing else to do. The other day I forgot my headphones when I went to the gym. I wasn’t going to not run because of this so I ran naked (without tech). I felt that I had a much easier time focusing on my breathing and pace and was actually able to PR. I couldn’t believe what a difference it made in my stride!

A recent article in Runner’s World quoted Ben Agger, Ph.D., director of the University of Texas at Arlington Center for Theory, saying, “Wearing technology while running intrudes on the mind’s attempt to give itself over to the body.”

In essence, constantly checking your watch to monitor your pace, distance and calorie count actually takes away from your run rather than improve it. Being focused on the numbers means you’re losing focus of the actual run. Also, we all have a set number in our mind, whether it be a PR time or distance, and focusing too much on that can actually limit you in your ability to get to that goal. Numbers can be motivational but they can also put a lot of stress on your runs.

When it comes down to it, it’s all about personal preference. I asked some of my fellow members of the sub-30 Club on Facebook and the responses were about 50/50. Some people said they like to run with tech so they can know if they are improving in their training. Others said they switch it up and run with tech indoors and without tech outdoors. But a slightly larger portion of the responders said they enjoy running naked because they can get in tune with their running body.

For me, I enjoyed running naked. I was able to focus on my pace, form, breathing and what my body was telling me, instead of what the numbers read on my phone. Running is supposed to be fun, so savior the experience!