Image credit Emma Simpson
I’m going to tell you a story about how I’ve come to love slow and naked running. And how I have learnt to embrace and have gratitude for the season of running I’m in.
I started running about 15 years ago. A late bloomer to the sport, I started out running in between lampposts up and down Tinakori Road, in Wellington. I fell in love almost immediately. Well, that love-hate, but mostly love kinda relationship. About a year later I completed my first half marathon. A few years later I completed a 100km trail race as part of a team. Yes, I know, i should have been certified nuts then!
My training style has varied little over the last 15 years. Always pushing myself, usually religiously following some sort of training program, never without my watch or phone with a running ap tracking me. Until I discovered slow, naked running.
I’ve always been a slow runner, pace wise. I’m a tortoise, not a hare! I prefer to run slower and longer. I’d rather be out running for a couple of slow hours than busting a gut to get a 5km P.B (personal best) or win a race. I’m not a competitive person in the slightest. Seriously, you don’t want me on your team for anything – I just couldn’t care less! But I’ve always pushed myself to achieve my own personal goals.
But when I refer to ‘slow’ running, i’m not necessarily talking about pace. I mean slow in an expansive general way. I mean that I take time to make my running a ritual now. I am more mindful when I lace up, and head out the door. I’m very aware that this is part of my self care routine. Not just another tick box on my to-do list. I’m not running to get fit or lose weight. I’m running for the pure joy of it, because i fills my ‘cup’. So naturally, as my life has slowed down, so has my approach to running.
I no longer care that much for training programs. I try and run 4 times a week but I don’t beat myself up if I don’t get there for whatever reason. I’m kinder to my body now, recognising when it needs a break and giving it one, rather than pigheadedly pushing through pain and discomfort.
And the naked part? I knew you’d stick around for that! Ok ok, i’m not actually naked. What I mean is that I no longer ‘need’ to run with a stop watch or a running app. I don’t even need my route mapped out anymore! I often just pull on the necessities – clothes and shoes – and go. I don’t decide my route or how long i’ll run for in advance. I just go.
Running in the forest or on trails has brought me to this place of mindfulness and simplicity with my running. My most favorite runs have been where i’ve actually got ‘lost’ on the trails in the mountain bike park. It feels spontaneous and adventitious… something that doesn’t feature much in the rest of my life. Not having an agenda, a course, or a goal for the run frees me up to just be there and run. To be fully present with myself. I often stop to watch birds or pick up rubbish now… because i can! If I want a walking break I just damn well take one! If i’m running in town I’ll even stop and chat to a friend in the middle of run where previously i would have yelled ‘can’t stop, aiming for a PB!’ (even when i wasn’t but didn’t want my groove interrupted!).
This is the season my running is in right now. It feels autumnal. Hunkering down for the long slow winter ahead. Pacing myself so that I can preserve energy for when the season changes. And it will. It hasn’t all been easy and as lovely as slow and naked running sounds. I’ve often felt very impatient and frustrated that i’m not doing more. That i’m not training for another ultra marathon. That i’m not improving. Or that I don’t have my pre two-baby body back.
But i’m learning to be patient and to enjoy my autumn season. This is part of what slow and naked running is to me. It’s stripping away all the ‘shoulds’, and all the expectations. “I should be training for something”. “I should go out running even though it’s pouring with rain”. “I should be doing speedwork”. Ugh. I’m learning to run for the pure pleasure of it. Not to run for the gains, for the calories expended, for the fat loss, for the medals, for the ‘oh my goodness you ran how far?!’.
Running will always be part of my life. I’ll be running as long as my body allows. So I’m taking care of it, the way it takes care of me. Maybe i’ll run another ultra marathon one day, maybe I won’t. Maybe i’ll get faster, maybe I won’t. The only thing i’m sure of is that i’ll run, no matter in what season or capacity. I run to heal. I run to be closer to God. I run to meditate. I run to feel free. I run to take care of myself.