Some Commandments for Keeping Running Real

by nomeatbarefeet

I recently listened to a great podcast over at Trail Runner Nation. In that particular one they talked about ultrarunner Will Cooper’s list of Nine and a Half Ways To Keep Running Real (from There is some great stuff there, and while I think that all nine and a half are pretty fantastic I wanted to talk a bit on just few and offer some remarks.

  • “Lay low every once in a while. I’m not talking about for a couple of days. Or even for a couple of weeks. I’m talking about for a couple of months. Find something else to do.”

This may be the hardest one to do. I know that I often find myself crawling up the walls when I haven’t been able to run for a few days. Make it a week and I am driving Katie absolutely crazy. A month?! WHAT!? It is also hard given the nature of this blog—we ran at least a race every month for the last year. Sometimes this meant 2 or 3 races. We have it ingrained in us to be going going going.

We have lots of plans for this coming year, but to ensure that we don’t get injuried and to continue to love what it is about running that drew us in in the first place, sometimes you have to stop and take a breather. That might mean doing something completely non-running. Read a book, go to the beach, go camping, say hi to your family—anything to lay low and take a break. You will be revitalized and renewed for the next time you go out.

  • “Commit. To a goal. To an event. Any event. Preferably one that inspires you. If you can’t, rest easy. It’s not the end of the world. If you can, smile, and enjoy the ride.”

I have always found that having a goal “out there” in front of me help me to consistently train. This was what got us running in the first place. There was a 5k coming up (Father’s Day 5k in 2009) and I said, “Ya know, we need to just do this.” So we signed up, trained, and ran it. We did the same thing for our first half marathon, and for our first marathon. (The marathon, however, didn’t work. We trained too hard and got injured.) But having something to shoot for, work towards, or aim at is helpful. Thats how it is for most people (and perhaps the very idea is ingrained in us as humans).

The one thing that I know having a goal helps with is running new distances. If you want to run a distance outside your comfort zone or a distance you think you might not be able to do, then sign up for it. Just try it. Whether it be a 5k, a marathon, or anything in between (or above—ultra distance anyone? Perhaps…) just sign up and work towards it. If you can’t do it, it really isn’t the end of the world. Learn; try again. If you succeed—great! Learn; move forward.

As the tortoise said: “I can’t make progress without sticking my neck out.

  • “Wander. Leave home with no particular place to go. No routine. No plan. Just run.”

This is much easier to do on trails. (Of course, that assumes that your trail isn’t a single loop. Its hard to wander in a circle 🙂 ) As runners we are often tethered to our watch and our routes. We want to know where we are going, how far we went, and how long it took for us to do it. To truly enjoy running—the pure, no frills, simple nature of running—we need to get back to its playful side. Strap on your shoes (or lack thereof if you want to barefoot it) and just run. Just go—wherever and for how ever long you want to. On a trail this means take that side trail you always pass by. Try a new routine. Turn left when you want; or go right—because this run is yours, and only you can decided where it takes you.

  • “Stop regularly on a run. Look around. You will be amazed at the little things that look back at you.”

This might be a counterintuitive commandment: “I thought we were supposed to be running. You can’t run if you stop.” True enough, little voice in my head, but again, the real essence of running is about play, about having fun. Whilst wandering down a trail it can be easy, and often necessary, to keep your eyes on the path straight ahead (what with all the roots and rocks and such)—but don’t get too lost in the mechanics of the run. There are a millions things going on around you. As the teenage sage Ferris Bueller eloquently reminds us: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” The stream slicing underneath the rocky outcrop; the tree, bent to resemble a chair; the countless animals crisscrossing my path and startling me back to reality; the flickering dance of light through the tangle of tree branches—there is so much to see and appreciate!

There is no taskmaster or coach over your shoulder making you keep running. In fact there is no one who says you have to keep running at all. The only person who can be hard on you is you, and the only person who will free you from the notion that running is an obligation is you. Make your run a joy, make it fun, connect with the world around you. When you reach a spot that “speaks” to you, stop—if even for a moment—and experience the world around you. You can always keep running, but the moments of stopping are few, and so meaningful.

So there you go. A few commandments to help keep your running real—or, to help maintain real running—or, well, just some helpful guidelines to keep in mind the next time you step out the door. Do any of you have mantras or reminders that help keep you moving down the trail (or just to get you out the door)? I would love to hear them. Keep moving forward.

(Many thanks to Will Cooper for his list of commandments. There is some fascinating and inspiring stuff at his blog. Check it out.)