junk miles

Beginning note: I miss writing. I have so many wild ideas in my head and in my notebook, but I've also been prioritizing work + mountains. This post will hopefully jump-start all the feelings and experiences I've wanted to talk about when it comes to living—and running—in Colorado. In the meantime, here's a quickie:

I was running with a friend last week under the hot hot sun on some trails in North Boulder, when the topic of our favorite distance came up.

I talked about half and full marathons, and my curious-yet-terrifying desire to try ultra running. For her, she went shorter: "I just don't think I can run as much as when I was younger," she started explaining. "When I train for longer distances, so much of it is junk miles."

I asked her what she meant, though the phrase resonated with me almost immediately. Junk miles: Miles for the sake of miles. Miles to get to a certain mileage milestone during an intense training cycle. An extra mile or two—a "quick out and back," or "one more little loop"— to reach a number on your watch, and as a result, feel satisfied.

I ran a lot of junk miles in Brooklyn. There was a five mile loop from my apartment I ran upwards of six days a week: .8 miles to the park, 3.4 miles around it, .8 miles home. Sometimes I would do two loops of the park; on occasion, I did three. But these runs became mindless. I ran them "because I'm a runner." I didn't think about how I was supposed to be feeling, and I rarely adjusted my pace or distance when I did tap into what my body wanted.

In Colorado, there are definitely a lot less junk miles. But they still exist. While I've been falling in love with trail running—slogging up mountains and flying down them, finding routes over large passes and difficult terrain (I can't wait to write about this !!)—I also created a new junk-mile route I visit at least twice a week.

There's a creek path right by my apartment that goes up into a canyon. It's nice. But it's mostly flat, mostly concrete, and isn't very inspirational. It's convenient, and it does give me a quick fix of fast legs. But that's about it. (Trail running = "you never know or care about your pace" and sometimes I miss the 7:30's on autopilot.)

I want to be more intentional with my running. No more runs just to hit 30 miles a week. No more junk miles because I feel like I have to.

And sure, every now and then some junk miles are good for the mind. Last week after a long day at work, I prescribed myself five fast miles on said creek path.

But like most things... quality over quantity. I much rather run up a mountain one time a week then run around a park six times. I want to run for the rocks below my feet, the wild flowers in my gaze, and the summits just 1,000 more feet up. I want to run for more than numbers. I want to run for me.