About software development and trail running.


A problem lately: I start running, and within five minutes or so, I start thinking about a title or description for my online training log. I should be paying attention to the run itself, my body’s performance, the state of hydration and nutrition, monitoring aches and pains or enjoying a rush of energy, checking how this all relates to the day’s training goals. But it is too easy to drift off into more abstract reflection: coming up with a clever description to share on social networks, imagining what others will think, looking for pictures to grab with the smartphone. I just want to run, with a clear head.

Take today’s run, for example. The run was a bit of a slog for the first few miles. My attention shifted pretty quickly from the actual state of my body to the need to get back into a serious training regimen, and then about the great training weeks my friends have had, and then I started composing a Strava entry about this in my head. And then I began to reflect on how my thoughts have strayed like this too often lately. Next I was thinking of writing a blog post about that observation. I remarked to myself on how meta all that was. By that time, I finally noticed that I had loosened up, the run was no longer a slog, and that I could make it a proper workout with some focus. Of course now I’m blogging about the whole experience, which is also meta.

This is a bit of a problem, for me and I think a lot of other people (there is a steady stream of running-selfies out there, for one measure). Sometimes we are too connected; we quantify our runs until we neglect to feel the ground with each step, and we objectify our performance until we no longer feel our lungs fill with each breath. Analysis has become real-time and recursive. Some days I just want to run.

Short of investing time in learning to meditate or throwing out all training technology (which really is useful), the only two solutions I know of are to run longer and work harder. Working hard or being out a long time, you will eventually get into a zone in which you are present to the reality of the run. Focus returns, the mind calms, and your senses sharpen. Then you are really running. How do you avoid meta-running?

Maybe blogging about it will help.