I seriously loathe running on a treadmill, but every time I choose a long race to run, I have to train during the winter. Since my town is terrible at plowing its main roads, let alone its sidewalks, I have to run inside, either on the small track at my gym or on the dreaded treadmill.
Somehow, the repetitive drone of my feet steadily hitting the machine’s belt absolutely kills my motivation. Hearing my own rapid breathing wears me down. No matter how loud I crank up my headphones, I can’t unhear those willpower-draining noises, and I can’t unsee all of the other people around me on gym machines, running to nowhere.
But at this time of year, when the snow is melting and the temperature is finally well into the double digits, runs take on a whole new dynamic. 50 degrees feels crisp and refreshing, so I lace up my bright blue Nikes and hit the pavement.
The sounds of passing cars, rustling tree branches, or fresh leaves mask my gasping breaths. The sights of dog walkers, stroller joggers, and other, intimidating marathoners drowns out the pounding of my feet on the concrete. I stop paying attention to the physical exertion my body is focusing on and let my brain go.
I have AC/DC and Sam Smith on the same playlist, but I rarely hear their songs–because on outdoor runs, I think. I think without plan–my thoughts go only where my mind leads them, and not where I feel I must force them, which I do all day at work. The discipline of my body replaces the discipline of my mind.
So yesterday, on a 55 degree day, I went for a long run. For five miles, I felt only the breeze in my hair, and not the wheeze of my lungs. I heard only the sprinting of my thoughts, and not the pounding of my feet. I saw only the possibility of greater distance…and nothing else.