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Friday, June 7, 2013

Improvisational Running

Hi all:

Some of you may know that running has been a major part of a number of life changes I made on September 11th, 2001.  I usually run with either my running group (AustinFit) or my running partner who happens to be my very good friend and neighbor.  These runs are designed to keep me in shape (or at least try to retard the ongoing damages of age and Friday morning doughnuts) or prepare me for an event such as a 5k, 10k, or half marathon.  The thing that almost all these runs have in common is that they are timeboxed to get on with a normal workday and/or regimented to achieve a personal goal.  Unlike "Whose Line is it Anyway," improvisation is an afterthought, if it's there at all.

Vacation runs are different--while I start out with a specific goal in mind, I almost always become diverted.  Paths that veer off to the side seem more interesting than staying at a steady pace.  The quick reflection behind a copse of trees could lead to running water (maybe even a waterfall!).  I'll have to squeeze through an opening generally smaller than me and I might have to turn off my music, just when I was getting into it.  About half the time, my concentration is broken and I end up walking and needing to psyche myself up to start pounding miles.  However, many other times I'm rewarded with a hidden waterfall, a secret overlook into a gaping chasm, or a chance encounter with a local inhabitant who clues me into other treasures off the beaten path that will bear further exploration now or later.

A chance encounter on this morning's run in Kauai
There is another "lucky" factor at play here of course.  Vacation spots, at least for my wife and I, tend to be filled with these types of gems.  That's why we're here, to engage in a target-rich environment for adventure and exploration.  While we have guidebooks and do some level of research, some of the best finds are done by foot.  Many do so by walking/hiking, but running offers the option of covering approximately twice as much ground in the same time frame. It's something like a fast forward button to skip through the boring parts and focus on the YouTube equivalent of the cat actually playing the piano.

But is this experience only limited to those places surrounded in natural beauty in concentrations as rich as Thomas' English Muffins' nooks and crannies?  Probably not.  Now that I think about it, some of my best regular trails came about from a minor incursion into some foreign territory.  They were so good, I just stopped improvising and tuned out to focus on the "main objective." Perhaps I need to rethink that strategy as well-worn ruts can be certainly comfortable and objective-oriented, but they'll never result in a new experience inspirational enough to blog about.


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