I'm coming up on the end of my first year running and over the last month I realized I really don't like races and I don't have any on the calendar for Spring. I'm sure I'll choose something to check off that first official half marathon but currently I'm just running for stress relief & fitness. Not having a set goal each week makes it way too easy to skip a day at whim, and then another and you know how that goes. I've found a few ways to keep it interesting and count down the days until Spring.
Exploring New Areas
You've run at the same 8 general spots for the last 9 months--I have 2 trails that are so boring now I don't care if I ever see them again. If you truly want a surprise new area to explore roll the dice (literally) on a pre-made list of running spots. Spending an hour researching new places is well worth the dozens of hours it'll take to explore them all. They may have nothing in common except a general 3-5 mile distance for weekday mileage. You can find locations on social media, running apps, park and trail websites. Your local running club is a great resource as well as local race companies—their courses are there to run all year, not just on race day. If you're competitive you can also virtually battle it out for crown status on Strava segments. Along the way you may find a new favorite running spot or running buddy.
Speaking of running buddies, if you always run alone others are probably just casually running now too. Reach out on social to your running community or for goodness sake, borrow a dog if you don't have one. No one cares what the pace is, it's just nice to talk to someone besides yourself or your podcast after a while! They'll have details about new running routes to share with you too.
I'm excited to have just found the CityStrides website which syncs Strava data and allows you to run new-to-you streets in your regular area. My section of the township has 76 streets on the map; I'm 30% of the way through them logging runs on 22 streets so far. This really satisfies my I inner geek seeing the colors change on the map day by day. I got horribly lost in a complex housing development yesterday and had to laugh at myself, I should have left a trail of snacks back to my car! I'm working on 3 separate zones at once so I can further mix up the short mileage days in my town and others I visit and run in. Just turn on your watch or app and go, sync it later to update your CityStrides map-there's no app to download and install.
If I don't get my weekend morning fix all alone on the back roads I'm not fit company to be around. Sometimes even those miles get a little stale though so a fun, free game to play is a running scavenger hunt. I keep a mental list of things to keep an eye out for along my route. Some objects include a lawn gnome, cow, fire hydrant, animal x-ing sign, shoe, hunters tree stand and my favorite, a port-a-potty. I'm sure a city list would look much different! I snap pictures of the items as I find them and sometimes they make for really amusing “seen on my run” posts.
Between training seasons it's also a nice break to run “naked” without a watch or phone. You're just out there for the time-on-feet, run for 2 hours and who cares what the distance measures. You'll probably have an idea of how far you went but the pressure's off to make sure you log a set pace or distance. Relax and enjoy the outdoors!
However, if weather keeps you indoors for the long run YouTube is full of virtual treadmill runs. You can “travel” to exotic cities, run on the beach or climb technical mountain trails anywhere in the world on the dreadmill. Some even tell you the suggested pace and run distance so you really feel like you're filming the run. The elliptical makes for a fun cross country skiing experience as well. Anything is more interesting than 12 TV screens showing the news!
For The Sadists
I'd heard of a running streak....x-miles for x-days with no rest days. I repeat. No. Rest. Days. This may well be your thing. I gave it a try for a 25 day Advent running challenge this month (5k minimum a day sure sounded like it was easy, I was logging 30 miles a week on my own with no problems already). Day 10 was my downfall & I haven't fully gotten back to it yet. I'd suggest this for the more experienced runner, it could be an invitation for injury if you're not ready for it.
And For The Saints
If you need to run for a cause, an organization or just something “more” than one foot in front of the other consider Charity Miles. Their mobile app is funded by corporate sponsors re-purposed media budgets for social good. You run the miles (or walk, bike, dance, etc) and charities get the money. You choose your charity too, there are more than 40 to choose from that are making an impact on health, children, animals, the environment, education, veterans and more. You're exercising anyway, why not give something back.
I hope this list helps you stay motivated through the dreary Winter months! Happy Running!