Runners are creatures of habit, myself included. We become comfortable in our routines, our runs, our mapped out routes, and our trusted brand of shoes. We have a playlist that is timed out to the run, we know which stoplights take the longest, and we may even know who we will see along our route. We enjoy the predictable ups and downs of our run. We can brace and prepare for the hills, both physically and mentally.
Races, however, don’t allow for that predictability. You may have run the route in advance or done the race in years past, but races are entirely unpredictable in their nature. You never know where you might get stuck in a bottleneck of runners. Your adrenaline might kick in a little too hard early on and you end up struggling at mile eight. It happens. Race day has hundreds, if not thousands, of more variables then your training runs.
I am one of those individuals who, if one thing goes slightly askew on a run, I get a little irritated. If my headphones won’t stay in, my shoes won’t stay tied, or the drawstring on my shorts isn’t staying snug, I get frustrated. Why isn’t the run going as I planned? Why aren’t the running gods smiling on me that day? Why doesn’t Pandora know that I really just don’t want to hear another Mumford and Sons song when I’ve skipped past three already?
Lately, in order to beat these frustrations (and save my sanity on runs), I have been changing little things in my training. Just tweaking a bit, preparing myself for the unpredictable nature of the race in May. I have been switching up my routes in order to keep things interesting. I got fitted for new shoes (a different brand! Gasp!) and tried out some new running socks. I’ve been running at different times throughout the day. I even ditched the headphones and began running without music, which was probably the most liberating change and the most surprising to people who know me. I have found that listening to my surroundings, whether it be the traffic driving past me or the birds slowly finding their spring voices, is much more motivating than listening to the same music repeatedly.
These changes haven’t been huge nor expensive nor earth-shattering. They have, however, allowed me to enjoy a few nice variations in my normally extremely predictable habits. I’ve started to feel like a rookie runner again- every sight and sound and feeling being new to me. My runs are greatly benefiting. Do I still get a little frustrated when my drawstring comes lose or my sock slides down? Of course, but it is a lot easier to handle that frustration when you’re taking in a new view of the sun setting over river bluffs or listening to the sound of branches gently reaching out and brushing against your body. Don’t fear change, my friends. Embrace it. I guarantee it will be a beautiful thing.