On a recent run, I went out and ran a slightly different route along Lake Merritt in Oakland. I noticed a little neurotic behavior I had not been aware of before. I was very concerned about making sure the run was still the same length as the normal route. It was as if the run would not be legitimate if it wasn't some predetermined length that I considered appropriate. As I took a look at this pressure I placed on myself, I really started to question it. What is a legitimate run, exactly?
4.34 miles also initially bothered me.Such an odd, uneven number! I was always considering whether to tack on a little bit in order to make it 5 miles even or 6 or whatever. And that idea would bring up another neurotic behavior: running out and back just a little bit randomly somewhere in a run just seems ridiculous. Don't ask me why.
But the fact of the matter is, when I gave myself permission to consider it entirely OK to run the 4.34 miles then it also lowered the barrier to going for a run. Because I can always go for that distance no matter what shape I am in, and unless I am sick its not going to be a difficult run for me. So there have been huge benefits in not establishing an ultimately arbitrary minimum to my running.
Although, confession time: I totally did tack on another bit to make my run the other day roughly the same distance it would have been if I did it the normal route. But baby steps. I realized it was arbitrary and the next time I go out the distance will be that much more motivated by how I feel- tempered of course by years of experience in how not to over do it.
So all this is to say, watch out for those little ways you mess yourself during a run. Unless we take a close look at them and fully appreciate the ultimately arbitrary silliness of it we can be doing ourselves a disservice. These odd little habits and neuroticisms can prevent us from listening to our body effectively- leading to things like overtraining, fatigue, sickness and injury. Not to mention how they can reduce our enjoyment of our runs too.