What I think About When I’m Running (or cycling or swimming…)

The I started running I didn’t run very far at all. The I heard the distances people were running out there I often thought, how awful what do they think about for so long? Then when I started doing dedicated training I started doing long runs and now I’m here to tell you, well at least what I’m thinking about. One curious thing that happens when your running is a phenomenon I like to call ‘hyper thinking’. It’s like regular thinking just more hyper. It’s as if your brain is forced to work harder because your heart, lugs and muscles are too. It’s not that it’s faster, it is faster, but it’s also deeper, more intense and also sharper. Maybe I’m the only one that feels that way but I suspect not. But if you’re thinking of something bad it seems to feel less bad when you’re running. So what do runners think about when they’re running? Well I’m here to tell you about what I think about while running at least.

what I think

In fact in hindsight I think it was training for a half marathon that got me through a tough personal time in my life. If something got bad enough I might have to do an ultra, ps I’m thinking about this… maybe for 40?

1. Running: I wanted to put something else from the list that was more exciting first but I couldn’t because the truth is I MOSTLY think about running. I think about my pace, my distance how long between water sips or fuel and what distance my watch will be at then. I think about doubling the current distance I’ve run and if I should turn around. I think about my gait (a little) my sore knee (a lot) and my outfit (also a lot). I think about what percentage of my long run is over and what percentage is left to go. I think about my upcoming race more than my outfit and my previous race less. I think about stuff I read on running blogs, Pinterest and the internet in general. Sometimes I think about my pulse, my last run and my next run. I do a lot of thinking about running while I’m running. Also I think about my monthly milage and how great running is.

2. I think about my and other’s health: Often somewhat boastfully in my head, can you have boastful thoughts? I think about the bad health choices  made in the past like drinking, meat eating, smoking and my overall level of fitness. After that I think I might very well live into my 90’s and what will that be like. Then I think about how many people don’t have that, how I didn’t have that for a short time in my life in the not so distant past. Then I think about what that cost people I love, mainly my Dad. Then I think about people I love now, what they might be headed for and what changes I wish they’d make. After that I think about what I can do to help them decide to make those changes with our pushing them and of their own accord.

3. I work through tough shit: Sometimes things so sideways, I can’t find something of value or that I need, bad news comes or a friend or family member does something insensitive at the very least. Then I think about it while I’m on a run. It starts off terrible and it gets worse for the first couple of km, sometimes I’ll even run cry. But the good thing is people just think it’s a tough run if your face is all wet and contorted. Then those endorphins kick in and I think it through it more rationally and then move to acceptance and then excitement. Or at the very least I keep running and go home too tiered to still be upset. Had I just stayed home and thought about whatever was bothering me I would have just wallowed in it. Sometimes I’ll even admit that’s what I’m doing. One night in particular I couldn’t find something I needed and I was convinced honey had moved it and forgotten about it, he has priors. After searching the house angrily and repeatedly in front of a guest and thoroughly embarrassing myself, I declared that I was going for a run and pretend I was mad at that for a while. I also apologized by the way. Twelve km later I was at least tuckered out and I found it in my desk drawer under some envelopes…. Oops.

4. I plan all of the things: Such as more runs. I can have a lot of balls in the air with work, teaching, house stuff and training as well as family stuff, sewing stuff and some fun stuff too. Especially if I’m following a training plan at that moment I know when I’ll be getting out next. So I mentally juggle all of the balls and figure out when I can squeeze the next one in. It often goes something like this. Sunset is at 8:15 so we’ll be off the roof by 8 and done dinner with the crew and home by 9. I’ve got at 14 km fartlek so I’ll be home by 10:30. If I load the dishwasher tonight, we can run it when we get home then I’ll have mugs for coffee and tea for the next morning. If I stay up REALLY late I can also get the house cleanish before the mother in law arrives. Also I can run the washer when I get home from supper, hang the clothes on the line when I get back from my run and they’ll be dry tomorrow since there is no rain in the forecast, change the sheets on the spare room before honey’s mom arrives the tomorrow when we get home and then go for that recovery run after that. They can go out to dinner while I’m out there and I’ll order a pizza and meet the delivery guy when I get back from my run and then I’ll have time to visit too. Perfect. Yeah that’s right I order pizza while I’m running, its one of my ninja skills.

Other times when those training sessions were getting really long and there was no half-insane crazy ways to make the pieces all fit for the next one I would have to ask for help making the next one fit. That sounds bad but my partner is also my boss so I would tell Richard I needed time the next day to leave work and get it done. PS that was never an issue and I super appreciate the way he would bend everyone’s schedule to make me free at the best part of the day for a run.

But I also plan my weeks lesson and prep time, new blog posts and shot lists. Christmas lists and grocery lists. I plan the pick-ups and supply runs for the next days, which tools we’ll need and which ones can come home, even though it’s not really my job. I think about how I’ll make the next homemade birthday gift and how I’ll sneak in doing that without honey seeing since we’re together all of the time! Use that hyper-thinking you get into when running to get stuff done and get back out there!

5. Evidence of others bad behaviour: This mostly takes two forms, drinking and driving and distracted driving. If for some reason you’re still reading this and you’re not a runner, know that we see you! We see you texting, and talking on the phone as you breeze by us. In a small town we even know who you are. And even though you post stuff about kids being on the road or even full on rants about people snap chatting and driving we know you are in fact a serial offender. You might say, “You are endangering my child,” on social media but we know you yourself do it on the regular. Also we wonder if you should still be driving if you regularly drive where you look right toward us and we know you’re checking us out. We do see your face for a long time each and every time you approach us in your car.

When it comes to drinking and driving I think about that a lot. I’ve never seen anyone do it up close but I see what’s in the ditches. No matter what part of town I’m running in the ditches remind me of that tub thumping song from way back. We see your vodka drink, you whisky drink and your lager drinks in the ditches and the volume is terrifying. It’s still RAMPANT despite the tough penalties in Nova Scotia and we say we don’t accept it as a society anymore. Enough so that my biggest running fear now is that someone will hit me drunk and still drive off since they are over the legal limit. It likely happened to a cyclist in my hometown last summer. They never caught the guy and now he’s paralyzed. I think about this WAY too often when I look to the ditches.

6. My own sometimes crappy behaviour: If I’ve done or said something stupid and insensitive I often end up ruminating about it while I’m running. If the last family gathering was extra awkward or I sensed someone’s feelings might have been hurt I’ll obsess about whether or not I had a part in it. The clarity that comes to your mind when your running also makes it a great time to think about what you should have done differently and then plan on doing next time. If I were to stay at home and think the same things it would put me in a funk, hard to deal with and it would last a whole lot longer. It’s nice to do this sort of thinking when I’m on a run since there is a built in end point. I can be a person that obsesses about this sort of thing and should it enter my mind last thing at night, I might as well just get up and clean the house.

Is it any wonder I think deep thoughts with amazing scenery like this to run in?

7. Truthfully, my knee: Since really amping up the volume on my runner’s knee in may 2016 I think a lot about my knee. It’s been a journey becoming less and more of a problem over the last year and a half. Whether it’s a bad knee day or a good knee day I find myself thinking about it a lot and I really, really hate that and it’s probably the biggest thing being injured has taken from me. It’s especially bad for the first km or two and then it calms down, so I think I’m getting better, hopefully!

8. My music: If I’m having a great run it’s I love this song and I’m sing panting along to the song. If it’s not such a great run it’s all I hate this song, who put THIS on there, and NEXT! Also remember this song for your next race playlist.

9. My schedule and stats: My schedule is a short one so I decided to add to it. At some point during almost every non-training run it gets great and I start thinking about going for longer. When I’m following a training schedule this doesn’t happen because that long run or speed workout is looming large later in the week. But this summer I wasn’t really in training for anything, the possibility of a few 10k’s but that was about it. But even at that point that doesn’t mean I don’t care about the numbers, though there isn’t a strong reason too. My Nike Run Club app gives mostly milage trophies and tracks my pace over the month and my lifetime. I aim for that next trophy level and know if my pace is trending up or down like all of the time. I kinda sorta care about where I am in the monthly leaderboard and I used to care about how I compared to female runners my age. At some point though I start thinking about the actual time. I might want to turn a 5k run into a 9k but then I start tracking the actual time to see if I can. This is about the only time I mostly use my Apple watch as an actual watch. How much further can I go before dark, or I have to leave for work or to get ready for the next thing.

I wondered what people thought about on those long runs for hours and I now now I know. In fact sometimes I want my run to last longer so I can keep running and thinking for more time. Do you think about any of these things when your running or something completely different?


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