Many of you following me on Instagram know by now that when I'm not out hiking a trail I'm at home running and planning for my next race. While I've got a few half marathons under my belt, I've taken the leap and decided to train for a full 26.2 mile marathon in the spring - The Covenant Half Marathon in April. While I hated running before I was a thru hiker, after my 2012 hike I discovered that running is one of the few things short of doing another thru hike that can keep me sane. I've noticed some similarities between the two in recent months. Here's how I think running is like hiking.
Time to Clear Your Head
Running is my "me" time. Whether I'm running 3 miles or 13 miles, I can use this time during the day to walk off whatever is bothering me or think through some ideas. In a world where we are increasingly dependent on electronic devices (yep, even when I run I'm tracking my progress!), taking the time to focus only on my breath and my thoughts helps me come up with more creative ideas, whether it's for suggesting new hikes at work or coming up with blog post ideas for you guys! Just like when you find yourself wrapped up in your own thoughts on a long and quiet hike, running can provide peace for your mind.
Just like when I'm on a long hike, when I'm training for a race my appetite hits out of control hungry girl mode. I normally eat a lot of small "meals" throughout the day anyway, but when I'm in the middle of training I am eating around 8 times a day with legitimate hunger pangs. When I'm really in the thick of training, just like when I'm hiking I can tell you what time it is just by the growling of my stomach. Second breakfast is REAL people!
The Internal Struggle
Something a lot of people don't know about me is that I'm mostly a pessimist. When I was on any given long distance hike I never had the idea in my head that I would succeed and complete the hike - or any hike for that matter. I had a blog follower ask me years ago when I knew I would finish the entire AT and I told them the minute I touched the sign on Baxter Peak of Katahdin was when I knew I would complete the trail. The same is true for me and running. On any given run, especially on my longer days, I don't ever feel like I'm going to complete the entire length of the mileage I've planned until I'm back at the car stretching. I have no idea why, but maybe it's a good way of keeping myself from getting disappointed on less-than-stellar runs.
Exhaustion After a Long Session
No matter how fit I think I am or how good I'm feeling, a long run - just like a long hike - can drain me. When I'm on a long-distance hike using the excuse of getting into town and getting some delicious and greasy food will make you do incredible distance. When I'm training for a big race, the promise of getting extra brownies and a big serving of chocolate milk is enough to make me push harder. Also just like when I'm on trail, that big push will zonk me out and render me useless on my recovery day. On trail, we take zero days. In the real world, I take binge watch a TV series days.
The Sense of Accomplishment
When you finish a long hike you are on top of the world! Exhausted and possibly swearing off hiking forever, but on top of the world nonetheless. The same is true for running. When I finished my first half marathon nine months ago I had trained all winter, sometimes getting up and running before the snowplows came and scraped away the layer of powder falling the night before. Running by headlamp with flashing reflective clip-ons in the pre-dawn hours all to say I ran 13.1 miles without stopping. When I finished the race I was jubilant and I ugly-cried after they gave me my finishing medal. There is something about the hard work and dedication paying off that can make running and doing a long hike incredibly rewarding.
These are just a few of the things I find running and long hikes have in common. Do you run for fun? Did you take up ultra running after a thru hike? I'd love to chat with you about your experiences. Please leave me a comment below or click on the Facebook post and get the conversation started!