I’ve gotten hooked on Instagram. It’s way more fun than Facebook, Twitter, or anything else I’ve used. I love taking a picture, finding a perfect filter, and putting it up there for all my followers to see (follow me here). Like many of us runners and gym goers, I also love posting about my most recent workouts. If you’ve been following me for a while, though, you’ve probably noticed that something is missing: STATS.
Everywhere I turn, people post stats about their runs. Distance, pace, inclines, etc. It’s impossible to open Instagram without immediately seeing a picture of someone’s wrist hovering over their brightly colored sneakers. For a while, I wanted to be one of those people too. I’ve downloaded just about every running app out there. Map My Run, Runkeeper, that zombie game that tries to convince you that zombies are chasing you so you’ll run fast (I might give that one another try, actually).
I’ve tried ALL the apps and in my earlier running days tracked every single run. I felt like it wasn’t enough to just start running, but that I had to be tracking every part of it along the way or else I couldn’t really call myself a runner. Like it wasn’t really official. Back then, I loved tracking my runs and seeing how I did. I love data, so the numbers part was a lot of fun. I’m also super competitive with myself, so I enjoyed the challenge of trying to beat my last time. I’d discovered how much I love running and it was my new favorite form of exercise!
Something happened along the way, though. As I got more and more into running, I started to notice everyone else’s stats and I compared myself to them. “So and so” runs so much faster than me AND she signed up for her second half marathon this year. Yeah, I’m running, but not as good as her…..
Then the doubt started to creep in. Why am I not faster? Why can’t I run 12 straight miles just for kicks? How come every time I run a race I pysch myself out and do poorly? I started using my stats to try and answer all these questions, but it wasn’t working. I’d head out for a normal run, start my tracker, and hit the pavement. I’d feel great during my run, enjoy the usual endorphin rush, then at the end of my run I’d immediately check to see how I did. If I ran slower than expected, I’d be totally bummed. If I ran 4 miles even though it felt like 4.5, I’d be bummed. If I didn’t do as well as I told myself I would, I’d be bummed.
The stats were literally sucking all the fun out of running for me.
I had to reevaluate big time. Why was I really running? What was I trying to gain? I decided to delete all my apps and just run without tracking one day, to spend my run thinking about how I feel instead. I laced up and hit the pavement and something awesome happened. I had fun.
I have no idea how fast I went or how many miles I ran. What I do remember is the breeze, the sun on my face, greeting all my neighbors and dogs as they walked by, and the feeling of total freedom that comes with pushing your body to do something difficult. I remember matching my steps to the song I was listening to, relishing the time alone with my thoughts, and the sweat dripping down my face. It felt like play time again and it was amazing.
I thought that one day I’d start keeping track of all the stats again, but I haven’t yet. To be honest, I’m not really sure I want to. Ever since that day I’ve enjoyed every run, even the ones that are hard. It doesn’t mean that without the numbers game I can’t push myself, because I do. I still love sprinting, and hills, and pushing past my limits. I just stopped holding myself accountable for arbitrary numbers.
This past weekend I ran through Colonial Williamsburg on a gorgeous morning and probably stopped 4 different times. I stopped once for a drink of water and to change my Pandora station. I stopped twice to say hi to the sheep, snap some pics, and pet them through the fence. I stopped at a bench to stretch my legs because the sun was hitting the town in the most gorgeous way and I just needed to savor it for a second. Two years ago I would never have done that because I didn’t want to “ruin” my run by stopping and messing up my pace. These days, though, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’ve finally found a way to recapture the fun and joy of running and I couldn’t be happier. I may never run a marathon, run 7 minute miles, or wake up on a Saturday and decide to just crank out 11 miles for the hell of it. But I’m running, which is the most important thing. And I’m loving every second of it.