It’s not my word alone. I’m sure of it. Surely someone else thought to combine running and exploring to create runsploring before me. No matter. If I’m plagiarizing, sue me. (Actually don’t. Just let me know and I’ll give you the credit).
As I worked my way back to my starting point on my run today, I realized rusploring is my way of learning new territory. When I visited Italy, my first big trip as a runner, I went runsploring daily. I discovered Rome in the early morning. I ran past Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and the Coliseum before tourists, and even most locals, began bustling about.
My first run after I moved to Shreveport took me up and down the Red River. I discovered the layout of my new home. I got lost in Spring Lake, and I mapped route after route up and down Line, Fairfield, Ockley, and Stoner.
Runsploring is a crucial part of my trip any time I visit a new place. I love running marathons in different locations and crossing off new states, because I get to experience those cities and areas in a way not even most of the locals have.
My runsploring has provided me with incredible perspective so far in San Diego.
My long run two weekends ago took me down the coast from Encinitas through Cardiff by the Sea, Solano Beach, and Del Mar. I ran into Torrey Pines and then turned around to head back. On my way home, the Pacific crashed loudly to my left. But I couldn’t even see the water through the darkness. I wasn’t scared, but I felt small and unimportant. Running up and down the hills at night with stars above and such a massive ocean nearby gave me a sense of scale and place.
I set out runsploring again on Friday. I left from Fleet Feet Sports with a few goals in mind. Our 10-mile Saturday runs started this morning, and I needed to know where to put the water stops. I also wanted to learn more about the area, so I headed out on the 56 bike path to run our planned route. But once I hit the 5-mile marker (our course is just an out and back), I decided to find a different way back.
That unexpected decision led to me running a half mile more than I planned (not bad considering I really didn’t know what I was doing). It also added another component I hadn’t considered: extremely tough hills.
Like Ron Burgundy in the movie set in San Diego, I thought: “I immediately regret this decision.” Three significant uphills greeted me. I will refrain from complaining about the heat, because I chose to run at 11:30 a.m., and I know all of my friends in Louisiana would just laugh. But I struggled.
As soon as I wanted to quit and walk the rest of the way, I crested the tallest of my hilly foes. I thought so many negative things while running (or I guess miserably rusploring) up that hill. I’m not ready for my upcoming race. How will my fitness ever be what it was last spring? Why is this so hard? At this point during a 10-miler in Shreveport, I’d be on flat ground right now.
When I hit the top, I looked out ahead and saw the perspective I had missed on the other side. I stumbled going uphill, my head down and my brain whining. My breathing evened back out at the top, and I saw miles ahead. The mountains in the distance. The beauty of the surrounding canyons. My heart soared. I felt the breeze I had ignored moments before.
I realized my lesson for the day: for every hard fought uphill, there is a smooth downhill somewhere ahead. Normally I find the extremes. Either I wrap myself completely in the moment, or I think nothing but big picture. In the past I either focused completely on the daily workout, or I stressed about Boston qualifying (when I was still far away). I tend to lack balance in my life.
The more successful approach, I’m sure, is a combination. Focus on the current hill, but understand the course will even out or give a downhill at some point.
Lately, I’ve felt like a failure, because I’m not near marathon PR (or any distance PR) shape.
It will be tough, but I know I shouldn’t let that fear and negativity consume me. These hilly runs and strength workouts are going to reward me eventually.
For now, I’m content with my runsploring. I will continue learning the southern California running scene. And I’ll stay focused on my daily running, while keeping the big picture in my peripheral view.
For anyone else wanting to go runsploring, remember: post-run tacos and a dip in the Pacific are a perfect pairing.