For many, preparing for a run includes more than just slipping into polyester/spandex clothes and lacing up the old “tennies.” My personal routine includes strapping on a music player, headphones, GPS watch, and a foot pod in case I trek into some trees and lose satellite tracking. On the road I see others with armbands holding their smartphone, speaking into the in-line mic in their headphone cord. I look at them and think, ‘Just leave the phone at home and enjoy the run!’
The other day, I broke my routine and went trail running in a forest nearby. I couldn’t find my foot pod, and my GPS watch had no charge. I clipped on my music player, inserted my earbuds, and hit the trail. I hadn’t made it very far before a chirping interrupted my music. It happened every so often and sounded almost like the sound a CD player makes when the disc is dirty and tries to spin. The chirping got louder and softer with varying frequency. I paused the music player and restarted it. The chirping was still happening.
I removed the ear buds from my ears, relinquished to suffer without music – a beat to keep my pace. I immediately heard the chirping again, but this time realizing that it was coming from the trees above me, to my sides, behind and in front. I saw robins perched on branches, a lark bouncing across the trail, and many other birds I couldn’t recognize. I realized that my music had been the sound interrupting nature, not the other way around.
I continued my run, without music, without GPS, without computerized technology. I ended up enjoying this run more than any in recent memory. I don’t know what pace I ran or exactly how far (though I was able to get a good idea from trail signs). I do know that my step felt quicker, my mind felt more alert, and my heart more satisfied. I enjoyed listening to the residents of the forest, watching the trail meander, and hearing the sound of my breathing sync with the sound of my footstep. I will likely keep my GPS watch and music player on when training for a race, but will now incorporate “natural” runs into my schedule more, where I leave all technology behind and pay attention to the moment.