Running can often feel like a very regimented process. One has weekly distance goals, yearly distance goals, race specific training cycles and targeted sessions. When I first started running I enjoyed the regiment, I had 3,4,5 mile routes that I knew so well that I could gauge run performance on how long it took me to reach a specific landmark.
Even my long runs were meticulously planned, but then if you live on the edge of a city like London, then this sort of meticulous planning is often needed, just so that you can find a nice stretch of route where you do not need to compensate for traffic or pollution or drunk people spilling out of pubs.
The map may look very green but there is a lot of urban development amonst that green which restricts runs to the parks or the Thames or side streets.
My spell in Doha required planning when it came to runs of any length, although that was a survival tactic as factors like access to water and the risk of being run over by a speeding car; on road, pedestrian path or scratch of undeveloped desert was very real factor in everyday life.
Now that I am free of having to run mostly on roads, free of having to consider if a Land Cruiser is going to decide to use the pedestrian thoroughfare as a quick shortcut and (mostly) free of needing, physically needing, to know that every 5 kilometres there is somewhere shaded where I can get some water I am finding that I am free of the need to meticulously plan every minute detail of a run.
Sure, I still pour over maps, record and review the routes I have run – I am a hoarder of run data after all – but I am no longer executing my runs by following a course I have mapped out and memorised. I still plan, but mainly I plan to find a quick way of getting to the patch of bush I want to run in, not to get through it. I still pour over maps, but to find hidden oasises of trail running.
I now run to rough distances and in rough directions with goals to find new tracks and trails to run on, to seek out interesting scenery and (if I am lucky) interesting animals. I am finding myself actively choosing trail races instead of road ones. I have a 12K trail race in just over a week (Big V) and I am now considering breaking in my 2017 marathon season at the Roller Coaster Run on Mt Dandenong. Yes I am slower (overall) on trails (although with my current speed, hill and strength training program that may change) but they are so much more satisfying.
Do you enjoy running without direction or are you a meticulous route planner? Answers on a postcard!