The Importance of Not Running

Runners run. But sometimes the best thing a runner can do is not run.

I’m not suggesting we all collectively scrap that half marathon we paid $125 to participate in, throw our brightly-colored sneakers in the trash, and agree to live a sedentary life that consists primarily of binge-watching TV shows and consuming Dorito-based entrees. I’m merely suggesting that every once in a while, we let real life get in the way of our running life.

This past weekend my wife and I met another couple for a beautiful few days in Leavenworth, Washington. For those of you not familiar with Leavenworth, let me describe it for you. It’s a small town nestled into the bosom of the Cascade Mountains. And thanks to its ubiquitous Bavarian theme, every building looks like a cuckoo clock and there’s no shortage of people wearing lederhosen and dirndls. Depending on your aesthetic leanings this is either delightfully charming or nauseatingly garish.

The best Bavarian village this side of the Mississippi.

When I initially planned this trip, I struggled to figure out exactly how I was going to work in my weekend  mileage. With the Tacoma City Half Marathon just around the corner, I wanted to make sure my training didn’t suffer. Since the bulk of Saturday was to be spent at the Leavenworth Ale Fest, running on Sunday was going to be tricky, if not painful. I ultimately decided on three easy miles Saturday morning, sleeping in on Sunday then running five miles when we got home in the late afternoon.

This seemed like a reasonable plan. Until my wife suggested we take advantage of our locale and go for a mountain hike on Sunday. For a few fleeting moments, I wondered if such an excursion was a good idea. In addition to cutting valuable miles out of my weekly tally, I worried about how taxing the hike would be on my legs and whether it would affect my ability to train properly the following week.

It didn’t take long for the smarter half of my brain to put me in my place.

Smarter Half: Really? You’re going to pass up the opportunity to hike some of the most beautiful landscape in North America so you can run… again? Don’t you run like four times a week? I mean, I get it, you’ve got a half marathon coming up, but if you crash and burn during that race, it’s not going to be because of one day of hiking. You need to chill the f@#k out, jackass.

The smarter half of my brain was as right as it was profane. I can always find time to run. But I can’t always drink beer with friends or bask in the glory of a Pacific Northwestern hike.  So I altered my precious plan, running five miles on Saturday morning and ignoring running altogether on Sunday. Not only did I survive, but I had a fantastic day. I slept in, enjoyed a delicious breakfast, and hiked in the sunshine all afternoon.

I didn't run on Sunday. I experienced this instead.
I didn’t run on Sunday. I experienced this instead.

Training for a long distance race takes a lot of hard work and commitment.  But as runners, we need to make sure we don’t overdo it. Every once in a while, we need to give ourselves a day off from the self-imposed grind. We shouldn’t make a habit of it, but we can afford to sleep in from time to time or skip the occasional weekend run in order to get some extra time with the people most important to us.

The beauty of running is it’s not going anywhere. We can do it whenever we want and it won’t judge us if we shorten our route or get pissed if we reschedule it for the next day. Running works for us, not the other way around.

Runners run. But sometimes not running has its advantages.

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