As 2013 comes to a close, I was able to get out for my last run of the year earlier today. Fittingly, this run came on the beach as has become somewhat the norm since I moved to the greater Charleston, SC area this past June.
This running terrain was also fitting as it was quite the opposite as my running backdrop on December 31st of 2012. On that day, I ran a little over four miles on the single track trails of Eno River State Park. Back then, those trails were my go to spot when I needed to get out for a run (and boy, did I “need” to get out often). It was in late 2011 and early 2012 that I began to identify as a “trail runner”. Running had never felt so free, liberating, or natural as those times out on the forest trails trying to outrun the sun, avoid twisty and tricky roots, and race along side babbling brooks and rivers. Ultimately, it became more of an expectation than an oddity that 90% or more of my monthly miles were put down on forest trails.
Thus, it was somewhat of a buzzkill when I moved to the Charleston area since (shocker!) there aren’t a ton of trails near coastal towns. I know…who would’ve thought? The lack of trails combined with the sweltering heat that my body had not yet adapted to made for one unhappy and grouchy runner. This overall runner’s funk persisted until one July day when I was running a greenway loop in a local county park. I was thinking a lot of Debbie Downer thoughts to myself such as, “Why do they call them greenways anyway? It’s just a bunch of blacktop. I don’t see any “green”! Stupid people…”, when I came across something rather spectacular. There was an alligator just chilling in the pond along side the trail! Yes, I know that gator sightings are far from rare down in this neck of the woods (heck, I was seeing one in a county park!), but it was a sight to see for this transplanted Jersey boy.
This reptilian sighting automatically boosted my mood and put a bit of a pep in my step for the rest of my run. It was then that I decided to make my terrain work for me in terms of my running and embrace what I had in front of me. Hey, it isn’t exactly torture living ten minutes from the beach.
Embracing the terrain has definitely meant a lot of beach running at times. Maybe in some other post I’ll get more into my thoughts about running on the ol’ sand, but for now let’s just say that the lack of elevation change isn’t ideal but the reduced impact on one’s knees is a positive. Plus you get to see some epic sunrises and sunsets, and let’s also not forget that in the end you’re on the beach…which is awesome.
I’ve still made an effort to hit the local trails whenever time allows (a 45 minute car ride one way is somewhat of a day drain), and I think that’s kept my running sanity in check somewhat. I have definitely found this past year that varying one’s running terrain goes a long way towards keeping things fresh and avoiding a rut (though those inevitably come).
Looking back over this past year, I can say that I feel more like a true “runner” than I did as 2012 came to a close. What defines a runner in my mind? Well, that’s probably a lengthy discussion and a thought that I haven’t fully fleshed out yet. Suffice it to say, I have a low threshold for looking in the mirror and calling yourself a runner. If you’ve ever found yourself thinking about running when you’re not actually doing it or if you’ve gone for a run when you definitely did not feel like doing so or had others questioning your “need” to run…well, then you’re probably a runner.
With myself, I’m a bit of a harsher judge (I guess we’re all our own worst critic, right?). There are definitely times when I feel like Pre reincarnated (ok, maybe not that extreme), but there are also times when I think I barely qualify as a glorified walker, let alone a runner. Running’s like that, ya know? There are definitely ebbs and flows, but we keep coming back for more. I think my improved consistency over the past year is what makes me feel more like a true runner, and hey, I’ll take it!
Looking forward to 2014, these are a few of the running goals that I have for myself:
- Finish my first full marathon
- Run a total of 1500 miles
- Beat my buddy in the Krispy Kreme Challenge again
- Run more often with my lovely fiancee (when she allows me to!)
- Run more with the forever lazy Puppy Pete
- Get involved in a running club again
- Run a relay race (not sure if that one’s feasible, but I’d like to do it!)
Here are a few of the final stats for 2013:
- 1381 total miles (707 Road/523 Trail/161 Beach)
- 18 total races run (including the infamous Krispy Kreme and Doughman races)
- 10K and Half-Marathon PRs
Here’s to another year of happy running to all those out there in 2014!