People see me about town on the run. My running routes take me along a couple of the major roads and high traffic areas. This is one reason I remain steadfastly devoted to the sidewalk. I like my runs with as little GMC Acadia grills to the face as possible. I find my pace suffers greatly if an Escalade uses my torso as a speed bump. I get honked at on occasion. I wave. I don’t usually know who I’m waving at but I figure they must know me. Or they are honking at the car in front of them, in which case, I’m waving at someone else. I’m still cool.
I’ve been running these (nearly) same routes for ten years. Same houses, same intersections, same trees, same rotting deer carcass (deer skeleton…deer bones…swarm of flies…deer ashes), same everything. I believe I know every square of sidewalk that has been replaced by the road commission and could offer a few suggestions on some others that are due.
It is rote running at its finest. I put on my shoes, tune in some tunes, and head out the door without thinking or planning. The only question is…which way to turn first? At the end of my driveway, I can go straight and do the more challenging 7.5 mile loop or right and take the flatter 6 mile loop. Or still go right and merge the flat course into the challenging course halfway and go 8.5 miles. And there are various combinations of these loops that can make the distance anywhere between 5 and 10 miles arriving back at my driveway at precisely a ½ mile mark on the nose. I know the loops and distances like the angry mole near my taint.
This probably sounds boring to some runners. I’ve heard it before…”don’t you get tired of the same routes”. “I’d be bored.” “Why don’t you find someplace else to run?” “Why do you want me to look at your taint mole?”
But running in and of itself is pretty repetitive. You place one foot in front of the other aaaannd REPEAT a few thousand times until you’ve covered the desired distance. It’s not a steeplechase. Sure, you may have some curbs to jump, pedestrian walk signs to inspire an impromptu fartlek, or an irritated mole snag to create a slight hitch in the stride but, generally speaking, the entire act of running is one big rote exercise. You must love the sameness of it all on some level.
And I do…which is why the scenery while running barely matters to me. Plop me along a country trail and, while refreshing, I’m still concentrating on the run, my pace, and evaluating my effort towards the work out. Put me in the Boston Marathon and….I’m still thinking about my pace and completing full body system checks every twenty seconds, approximately. I might catch a few sights in passing but, really, the scenery changes but I don’t typically notice.
I don’t even have a race on the calendar (yet) in the coming few months but I’m often asked “what are you training for?” Well, nothing, really. I just run because that’s what I like to do. I still do tempo runs, long runs, track 800’s because that’s part of the rote routine. I don’t need a race to keep me motivated. I don’t need a change in scenery to keep the activity enjoyable. I may need a dermatologist to look at my taint mole but that’s a completely different post I have planned for you.*
While I enjoy the roteness of my running, there lurks a hidden danger. I’m so used to my routine that weeks and months go by and I realize that I’ve barely pushed any harder outside of my comfort zone. I’m running the same paces and distance I did six months previously. And for an inveterate PR chaser, this is a danger. While the rote keeps me heading out the door, the rote also confines me to a certain level of training.
You must know when to cut the rote off and start fresh. Maybe I’ll go counter clockwise on my long run this Sunday…see what everything looks like coming from the other direction. I’m feeling a bit crazy.
I guess what I'm saying is...everyone needs a taint mole along the way to interrupt the rote. I hope you find yours.