I just couldn’t get started yesterday. It was Saturday, and I had nothing that “had” to be done at any particular time. The weather was dreary,  43 F., and overcast.I had eaten my toast and peanut butter (a favorite snack to give me energy on a run) and drunk my coffee, and still couldn’t get out the door.

I missed my Wednesday run last week because of rain and consequently ran Thursday, a tough hill repeat workout. Friday I ran 4 miles at a faster pace than I had planned; it’s tough to slow down when the first mile is downhill. Saturday I was tired and cranky and just wanted to sit around the house. But Bolder Boulder  is 2 weeks away, and I need the miles, so I headed out the door and drove to the east slope of North Table Mountain in Golden,  to the head of the Fairmount Trail. This trail runs north along the mesa and up to the Arvada Reservoir. It’s about seven and a third miles out and back, with fantastic views of the near Front Range foothills, from the “M” on Mt. Zion to the Flatirons. You can also see miles of Denver metro to the east if you care to. I don’t care to, much.

At the trailhead, the weather hadn’t changed. Had I expected it to? Still overcast and cold, and I was wearing short sleeves. Should I turn back and get another shirt, or wear my hoodie? I decided that I’d just start out and see what the first 15 minutes brought. If it was too cold, I’d turn back.

After half that time, I was dejected. I was sore, cold, and dispirited by the clouds, I couldn’t see my mountains. I would have settled for a city view at that point, just to break up the greyscale smothering me. Too, the first part of the run is a pretty good uphill. I usually love starting a run on an uphill. It forces me into a good pace, instead of coming out fast and fading. This day it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I determined to run to the next landmark and turn around.

That decision made, I allowed my mind to drift a bit, and I came across a tip I’d read, where a running coach said to run ten minutes, and then walk for 30 seconds- 1 minute, and repeat. I’d heard similar comments before, and knowing that there is bad and good advice out there, I thought  “well, the day’s a loss, so if it’s a bad tip, I’m not out anything”. I checked my watch and slowed down to a walk, watching 60 seconds pass, then paced back up to a slow run.

I felt a little better, surprisingly. A minute’s rest had a big effect on my legs. Like most runners I can obsess about training, so this small increase in the quality of the run had a somewhat larger effect on my mood. I thought I’d pass up the turnaround point just ahead, and run another ten minutes before turning around.

Who’d have thought it? After another repeat of run and walk, I knew I was going to do the full length and back.

The temperature didn’t budge, the clouds never lifted. My spirit lifted though, and my attitude moved. The simple tip that I don’t have to push 100 percent in every workout was something I needed to be reminded of. I came long ago to the realization that I’m not created to be a professional athlete. I came only recently to the realization that I don’t have to be to enjoy “racing”. I like running in competitions for the boost it gives me; being part of a group working towards personal goals.

My goal in my next race is to run faster than my qualifying time, not to win my class. So if I know that winning is not important and running my best is, then it stands to reason that running my best is what’s most important in my workouts, too.

God did not put me here to win footraces, but to win the most important race of all. In that training, in my marriage, my work, and in my sport, the quality of what I do is of more importance than mere quantity. The junk miles I started out to cover yesterday would have been of little worth.

By ceasing a pointless struggle for perfection, I can turn “junk miles” into productive hours, in my running and in all my life.

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