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August 3, 2000

The Run Around

Sometimes you just need a timeout to get your focus back

By Matt Carpenter

Sometimes you just have to take a break. That was the case for me not too long ago.

I was in the middle of what should have been an easy run and it was quickly becoming a grind. Several weeks of hard running and a race had put me deep in a hole. So, I took a left turn off the trail, ran to the top of Rocky Mountain, scrambled up the highest rock, turned off my stopwatch and just sat down.

For what felt like an hour (probably closer to 30 minutes), I just watched and I thought. I watched ladybugs flying from rock to rock and I thought about my goals. I watched the trees shudder in the wind and thought about how my training was making me feel. I watched hikers, bikers and runners on the trail some 500 feet below and I thought about how it would feel to yell hello at the top of my lungs. I yelled — it felt great.

My energy came back and a calm overtook me. The very run that was wearing me down had just afforded me a few moments of incredible relaxation.

Soon I was back on my way, finishing another two-hour run — but it was no longer a grind.

I am sure you are thinking, “What kind of break is that? I thought you were going to tell us you took a couple of weeks off.” OK, perhaps a “timeout” would be a better term.

I know a runner who calls these “stop and smell the roses” runs. No matter what you call them, the goal is simple; put things back in perspective.

These timeouts can come in many forms. Sometimes I stop by a creek and throw rocks into the water. Other times I might stop by a rock outcropping and do a little climbing. Once I curled up under a tree and fell asleep.

After one of these timeouts my focus comes back. It’s like looking through a pair of binoculars — sometimes the best way to check that you are in focus is to do a quick adjustment that takes you out of focus.

These timeouts are just a way of focusing on something else in the middle of doing what you are focused on. For me they have a far better result than, say, doing a run and then watching a movie or reading a book.

Those breaks are needed too, but they are so far removed from the actual running that for me they don’t carry over into the next run.

So the next time a run is wearing you down, take a timeout.

If your timeouts are like mine, perhaps we will see each other on top of some mountain where we can say hello at the top of our lungs.

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