Looking for a running escape? You don’t have to travel far
Allowing time to be spontaneous can turn your summer run into a mini-break
Alice Flaherty runs along the grass paths of Santry Park, Dublin.
The lockdown has lifted and from today the county borders are officially open. Those who have been pining for the sea air, the city streets, the mountains or the nostalgic roads of our childhood have a little more freedom to explore.
Whether you are staying local or packing the running shoes in your suitcase, a summer of running awaits and you get to decide what you want to get out of it. But before you take off and try to run all the paths you have missed in the last few months, let me ask you a few questions.
Runs of summers past
What are your favourite running memories? Who did you run with and where did you go? While I am a little nostalgic for the post morning run croissants at the French boulangerie, most of my fine weather running memories are actually quite local. Interestingly, almost all of them have nothing got to do with the actual run. It’s the view from the top of a hill where I stopped to catch my breath. It’s the post-run stretching and chatting on the grass with some friends. It’s the novelty of finishing an evening run and it still being bright and warm enough to have fish and chips on the pier. Most of these memories could indeed be recreated with the social distancing guidelines, if I took the time to make them happen. What about yours?
Runners work hard all year round, chasing the clock and using every ounce of motivation to get out the door on the days when we don’t feel like it. Add a pandemic to the mix and we are all a little extra frazzled as we emerge from lockdown. Running has been a saviour for many over the past few months but keeping a running routine has taken effort and perseverance especially without races or parkrun to keep us inspired. If your last few months of running are all a blur of procrastination and effort, it might be a nice time to take a break from your current running routine. Just like the schools shut down for summer, it’s ok for us also to recharge by moving the running focus from performance to fun for a little while.
Allow time for spontaneity
How we approach a run can turn it from a chore into a pleasure. Have you ever gone for a run but didn’t want it to end because you were enjoying being out there so much? Get lucky with the weather and the company and it doesn’t matter how close you are to home, your run can feel like a mini break. For me that’s what summer running is all about. I love those moments where I forget I’m running as my focus is on the chat, the scenery or the novelty of a new place. How fast we go and how many times we stop along the way doesn’t really matter. The big key is not to be in a rush getting there or getting home. Allowing time to be spontaneous is where the magic happens.
Remember the 2km radius
You don’t even need a whole morning to yourself to experience the freedom of summer running. Start simple this week. Retrace the local route you ran in the early days of lockdown when we were limited to our 2km radius. Notice what has changed, or indeed what you never took the time to notice before. Lockdown made us much more aware of what was on our doorstep, but also made running more stressful as we navigated our way around social distancing. While we still need to be mindful of keeping our distance, choose this week to run more relaxed than those early days. Commit to running this route every month with the aim of noticing the changes in nature. From the springtime yellow gorse to the wild flowers of early summer right up to the blackberries on the roadside we will see later in the summer, the same path can offer a different escape each month. We just have to choose to look out for it rather than rush to the finish line.
Take the lead
It is easy to find a running buzz when there are organised races, parkruns and coaching sessions. But without these usual supports we need to be more proactive if we want to experience the real summer running pleasures. Rather than wait for someone else to invite you to go for a run, be the one to organise something. Pick a date, plan a route, invite a friend and don’t be afraid to take a break along the way. Remember you have the added bonus now of reopened coffee shops and ice cream vans to enjoy too. The summer days are here but they roll by quickly too. Take the initiative now and you won’t regret it.
It may not have been the summer we had originally anticipated but that is not to say that we cannot make the most of it. The last few months have been a challenge for everyone. Don’t add running to your list of stressors this summer. Putting on our tourist hat, rather than our competitive hat, can sometimes be a nice way to enjoy and appreciate our surroundings. Run free, explore locally and enjoy the lack of structure to your training if you are not focused on a particular challenge at the moment. Find the right balance between running and resting this summer. We don’t need to read all the running books, run all the miles or visit all the places this summer. Keeping it simple might be the best summer holiday of them all.
Mary Jennings is founder and running coach with ForgetTheGym.ie. Her book Get Running, published by Gill Books, is out now