Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Brands

Culture

All The Thoughts Swirling In My Head When I Run

One runner answers the not-so-simple question from a friend after a recent race, "What did you think about while you ran?"

Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.

*Republished with permission from Jennifer’s Writing

After my last race, my friend asked me what I thought about while I was running. The answer to that is slightly different depending on what type of running I am doing.

When I first start in a race, I am listening to the conversations around me. These conversations at the beginning of a race always fascinate me, because they are always inevitably about what a runner thinks he or she can or cannot do in the race. What fascinates me is the wide array of expectations—or lack thereof—that I hear. One person will be excited that he is going at an 8-minute per mile pace. while someone else will tell a friend that the plan is to run a few feet and then walk throughout the race. I spend time wondering what causes someone to have high expectations or low hopes.

I also spend a few minutes wondering about the reasoning of people for where they place themselves at the start. It seems like a simple concept that fast people should be in the front and walkers should be in the back, yet at my last race after running about ten feet, I found myself looking at the back of a man who was walking with a cane. Now don’t get me wrong, I admire him for doing the race, but I don’t think the front of the pack was where he should have been.

As the runners settle in and the crowd spreads out into the different pace groups, I think how peaceful it is. There is the rhythmic sound of feet hitting the pavement and sometimes shouts of encouragement from volunteers, but other than that there is a calm that settles over the race.

I think about how much the first two miles hurt as my body tries to find its rhythm and settle into a good pace. After that second mile, my body can be turned on autopilot and I can think about other things besides getting my body to do what I want.

I people watch while I run and I think about how inspiring the people are who are running around me. There are people who have beat a crippling illness, others who are using running to prove that they are stronger than whatever is holding them back in life. What I consider a simple joy in my life can be a lifeline to others.

As I pass people or they pass me, I imagine their struggles or their joys. You might wonder how I could have any idea about what they are going through, but a lot can be revealed as you watch people moving through a race.

Sometimes I have to do a lot of self talk to keep from stopping and at this point, I have to think about all the reasons that I need to keep going. I enjoy standing near the finish line after I have finished. The stories that cross the line with the runners are written all over their faces.

If I am just out for a training run, I am listening to all the sounds in the neighborhoods around me, I am planning out my day, working through problems, writing articles in my head, or just letting my mind go blissfully blank.