Updated: Jun 29, 2021
Freedom. A word associated with why many runners choose to run on trails and head to the hills. Running is escapism and novels such as ‘the loneliness of the long distance runner’ portray this, however, not necessarily in the best light. Running can be a utopian experience of pure bliss and the ‘runners high’ is often achieved when in nature and away from the stresses of the modern world. Today it is increasingly difficult to be truly ‘free’ when running. This is because runners are often addicted to uploading their runs to social media such as Instagram and Strava. Runners are often addicted to their GPS watch and the data it provides. Running free is simple but it’s not easy.
Some of the best runners I know have started to have exceptional performances after deciding to care less about their training stats. I remember having a conversation about training volume with a friend who happens to be one of the best fell runners in the country. We were talking about 100 miles weeks and he said ‘I just find I adapt better with 70 miles a week’. Still a decent volume but his relationship with his mind and body is second to none. From a personal perspective, coming off Strava has paved way for me to have some of the best sessions I’ve ever had and to take more risks in races without overthinking the opinions of others. But in all honesty, nobody really cares about other people’s running training - the stats are forgotten in minutes. On Instagram and Twitter, it is common place for runners to post sessions far tougher than their ability; perhaps trying to prove something to others.
To me, being ‘free’ in running is about truly listening to your body and your desires. Perhaps you are under recovered for that session and instead of ploughing on decide to take another easy day to absorb the session. Perhaps in the base building period you decide to do a fartlek session by feel and play with your running rather than follow a structured session. Perhaps you put the GPS watch in the pocket and run to feel. Perhaps you even leave the watch at home when doing a race. Perhaps you come off Strava, or a have a break. I believe that these strategies can help a lot of runners have more fun, have better performances and stay running for longer.