Running never ceases to amaze me as a way to connect to oneself on a number of levels when flying down a trail or road with only ones thoughts to keep you company. It’s during this time you can reflect on the issues of the day, focus on hitting that next training milestone or otherwise push along with the goal of hitting a certain distance, time or training schedule check mark on the path to a future race etc.
However there is something to be said from being burnt out from training runs. By this I do not mean physically so much as mentally. Running the same routes, doing highly focused tempo runs, hill repeats and speed work with very specific goals to either hit can leave you mentally tired with your routine and in desperate need of something to shake things up.
Personally I have found a solution to this that I like to work in to my training plans when recovering from one event and before resuming serious training for another or during recovery weeks in your training cycle.
The solution is an Exploration Run. At some point as adults we loose that curious nature that we once had with everything as children when we used to always ask why and wondered what lied around every corner.
An exploration run is a chance for you to rekindle that childhood feeling of sneaking away from your parents or life for a moment in to the forest, on that little path behind the school yard or park that you kinda knew you were not supposed to go down alone but always wondered where it went.
As adults training we can get so focused on time, mileage or just stuck in a rut we don’t even notice all the great trails official and otherwise that we run by on a weekly basis and it’s time to change all that in spirit of rekindling your love to run.
There are a few key elements or rules to an exploration run to ensure that it is a positive and safe experience.
Do not set a fixed time, mileage or destination expectation.
The point of exploration is to not know exactly what to expect so it can not have these kinds of limitations as it may leave you second guessing taking off down the trail less traveled.
Be prepared to be out for awhile.
This expedition could be 30 minutes or all afternoon if your enjoying it and really cutting loose so dress for the weather, gear up as if you were going on a long run (food, drink, clothes) or hike and be sure to have a bit of money and cell phone in case you get way out there and need to call a cab or family member to come pick you up from a yet to be determined location.
Do this during the daylight.
While many of us are busy and pressed for time during the week and run main roads at night an exploration run is really no time to be out in the dark. To ensure others are around if you need help or directions and decrease any random tripping related injuries on unknown trails or single track areas you should only explore during the day. If you must head out late in the day or early evening then make sure you have a headlamp in case your end up out past sunset.
Have fun and do no over think the run.
The entire point of an Exploration Run is to enjoy it. Make it your own personal mini ultra running simulation with forest running, hopping rocks to cross streams and climbing steep hills that you would never touch on a structured training routine day.
Do not worry about pace.
There is no such thing when your exploring different terrain. Walking is not only OK but encouraged time to time so you can enjoy your surroundings and keep your legs fresh for when you see a steep decline that you just want to fly down later.
Take photos of amazing places.
No doubt when your off the beaten path your going to see things that not many people do in a given day. So why not stop and snap a couple pictures to share with others and show them how running for pure joy and exploration can be once in a while.
Now hopefully after hearing all these not so ruly rules you are staring to see why an Exploration Run falling somewhere between running, hiking and just enjoying a day out is truly a way to get lost in the moment (and sometimes on the trail) giving you not a care in the world as you take in each thing nature has to offer wondering what lies around the next corner.