Running Priorities–Are They Changing?

I had a choice yesterday:

  • go to the track
  • run on trails
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It came down to what are my priorities in my running?

  • Running Fast
  • Enjoying Running

Running Fast

I know that I need the track work desperately, to run faster than I do now. Especially since, when I run faster than a 7:30 pace it feels very awkward and labored, instead of the natural feeling that I used to have.

If I want to run faster, it means that more than likely that track/speed workouts will be an important focus in my weekly training plan, as I re-learn how to run faster. However, speed workouts, while satisfying when they are done, are not enjoyable while doing them. You have to accept that you will experience discomfort and even some pain to get faster and it is a lot more like work.

Running fast also means that I miss a lot of what is going on around me. When I am running faster, I tend to be very focused. I see enough to be safe, but I am constantly monitoring different body parts (whether it is pain or discomfort), determining if I should push a little more or if I am slowing down. So much so that I often don’t see neat things until the last second or I tend to miss them.

There is a lot more planning involved in getting faster and you tend to be much more aware of the numbers, how many miles, at such and such a pace, what my splits are, how much did I slow down on this hill and all the other things that I worry about when I am training to run faster. The numbers govern how you run and decide if you are improving or not.

However, the feeling of accomplishment that you get when you have completed a hard workout is difficult to describe and the feelings you get when you set a new personal record (PR) in a race, as a result of all your hard work is amazing.

Enjoying Running

When I am running for the sheer joy of running, I tend to let go of things, my body decides on the pace, I tend to notice little things around me and at the end of the run, while I might be tired physically, I am refreshed mentally.

I don’t worry so much about pace or how long the runs take me, I am just running. I also tend to slow down and notice more about what is happening around me and not worry about things like embracing the pain or being uncomfortable.

I know that I am much more likely to stop take a quick look around or snap a photo to have, when I am just out to enjoy the run.

Can’t I do both

A lot of people seem to be able to do both, but I can’t.

I love to run fast, but when it is time to run fast, it also means that I am pushing myself a lot harder than is enjoyable. Running fast usually means I am running for a purpose – to get ready for a race or if I have identified someone who I really, really want to beat next time.

It isn’t time to screw around with stopping to take pictures, moon dogging or dreaming, it is time to focus on the work that needs to be done to run faster.

Training to run fast and running fast is a mind-set to me, and doesn’t go well with just running.

It is almost like the difference between S.M.A.R.T. goals and holistic goals – and yes there is a huge difference.

I am Wondering

At some point in our lives, most of us re-examine why we do things a certain way, to see if they make sense or not. I have written about running fast before, but it is a subject that I seem to be coming back to an awful lot in the last few months, because it is something that I am thinking a lot about.

What is the real purpose for running fast in my life?

Is it simply for me to reach an artificial goal or beat another runner. If so, how important to me are those things in the big picture?

Really who cares how fast I run, besides me. I am not going to win any races or even be very competitive in my age group in most events, so does it really matter what my time is for a race, whatever distance I am running, as long as I finish the run.

Actually, I think most of the reason for running faster, is simply my ego. That part of me, which continues to want me to run faster and be “competitive’”. I think that is more of the answer than I want to admit.

Perhaps I have finally gotten to the point in my running life, where attempting to run fast is not the great quest or the Holy Grail of Running that it used to be?


I have a feeling that I answered that question yesterday.

When I made the a choice between running at the track with clear mileage and time goals in mind or go on a trail run, without any regard for time or distance other than I wanted to run for around an hour.

I chose the trail run.

No More Track?

Does this mean I won’t ever do speed work again or go to the track?

Of course not.

I actually like track workouts (in a sick and perverse way) and the challenges that running faster presents. I still enjoy challenging myself and along with a few people that I would like to finish ahead of at our next race together. So the track and speed workouts will continue to be a part of my running.

However, I have a feeling that my track/speed workouts will be sporadic and more of a spur of the moment type run that I choose to do instead have to do as a of a part a master plan to run faster.


The reality is that

I still like to run fast (for me), but I just don’t have the old overriding need or drive to run faster as often as I used to. There are other parts to running that I seem to be focusing on and enjoying more as I am getting older:

  • The great view from the top of a hill or ridge
  • The beautiful flower that is nestled just so in the woods or side of the road
  • The critter looking at me or scurrying away as I go by
  • Enjoying the feeling of just running
  • Taking pictures during a run


My running priorities are shifting away from the need for speed. While I haven’t completely stopped worrying about running fast, it is certainly becoming a lot less important to me.

What do you think?

Which phase of running are you in?

  • The constant need for more speed
  • Stop and smell the roses
  • A combination of the two

12 comments on “Running Priorities–Are They Changing?

  1. Such a great, timely post for me, Harold. I was just chatting about this today with a friend on my long run. I think I still have that competitive heart beating for a year or two, but I can also feel that trail runner in me fighting to come out. Like you, I’ve been at it a long time, have accomplished a lot, and am starting to lose some of that edge. Time and place for all of it, which is what makes running such a gift.

    • Amanda – I wonder if it is about the competitive heart or is it? At times I feel the ultra competitive me come out and I don’t really like what it does to my running. It stops being enjoyable and becomes a goal or a specific time, which is not why I run – oh happy days now that I realize it and can do something about it :-). Oh I am sure that you and I will still try to run fast (probably faster than we should), laugh and smile when someone asks how old we are and we tell them and they say “you’ve got to be kidding”. Those kind of things help the ego still.

      I am still wrapping my head around what is fast and what is enjoyable, but that little act of choosing the trail over the track, really was a big decision in my running and I am starting to accept that running is a gift that we can do for a long time and is about more than simply running faster.

      Thank you for commenting and helping me to think this through.

  2. I just hit the stop and smell the roses stage. I used to want better times for each race I ran. Now I’m “meh” about times and “yay” about a pretty course on a nice day.

  3. Since I came to running later in life (mid-40s) I’m still a little curious to find out how fast I can run, still have a couple of goals to hit (hopefully later this year). Then I have a feeling that it will become much more a combination of need for speed and stopping to smell the roses 🙂

    • I know how you feel, since I came back from injury last year a part of me wants to find out just how much is left in the tank, but at the same time, I have to be careful to not go too far and do something stupid and injure myself because I ran faster than I should have. As we get older I have a feeling that stopping to smell the roses becomes more important than the speed side of things, we just hit that point at different times :-).

  4. Love this post!!!!! I want to run fast and have been incorporating speedwork weekly with my new racing team but I also want to enjoy runs. I am not sure that these 2 things are interchangeable. Running fast takes work and I want to enjoy running. I would have picked the trails to run on too!!! Today I actually incorporated speedwork into my run by doing 30/30 which is run fast for 30 seconds and runs slow for 30 seconds and it was an awesome workout that I did not have to do on the track, something you may be able to use on your trails. PS: You are super fast anyhow, I wish I could be consistently as fast as you!

    • Thanks Toni – I admit that I cheated a little on the upper trails and did some fartlek between trees, but it was different than going on the track. I wish that I was super fast, just a middle of the pack runnah, who trains in the 8-10 minute range. Unfortunately, the ‘glory days’ spoiled me and when I run fast, I still compare my present times to those, even though they happened almost 30 years ago :-). Getting them back is the impossible dream and is part of what I am dealing with. The mind says it can and the body says “You’ve got to be kidding ;-). The joys of getting older.

  5. The more speed is a big part of what I enjoy about running. I too enjoy track work more than most (crazy right?). I also love trail running but I don’t have the expectation of speed on the trails. So it looks like I’m a combination of both leaning more toward a need for speed. You’ve given me a lot to think about on my long run this morning.

    • Jill – thank you for commenting, speed is fun as long as you are listening to your body closely and don’t do it too much. I really still am more of both, even though I have started going in the direction of slowing down more and more, but I will not stop trying to go faster, in the right situations.

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