What Do We Do Now?

Is there a new (to you) trail somewhere close by that's calling your name?

The spring track season was terminated as it was in the first stages of flight. The fall cross country season was deep-sixed before any meets could be held.

Given that recent history, any high school distance runner anywhere in New Mexico could be forgiven for asking, "So, what do I do now?"

A good insight into the answer to that question may be had by looking at the proposed five-week schedule for cross country in February and March. Think about it... a five-week season. Five weeks simply is not enough time to run yourself into any kind of competitive shape.

In fact, five weeks is just about enough to snare yourself an injury for your personal trophy case if you aren't ready to go as soon as the season starts.

Those who emerge as winners in March, and those who come close, will be the ones who faithfully continue their training over the next four months. And four months seems like a long time to anyone who's already been training, without any races, since January or February.

Undoubtedly, there will be some who simply give it up. Human patience has its limits, and those limits vary by person.

Others, however, will recall that distance running never did advertise a short-term view of things. Those people will put their shoulder to the wheel one more time.

Even for them, however, there are some observations about training that are worth making. Boredom is the sworn enemy of prolonged distance training. How do you stave off the boredom? That's a particularly acute question for a teenager who likely hasn't yet developed the stubborn persistence of, say, a 26-year-old distance runner.

The first suggestion I would make is to find a new trail or two. Incorporate those trails into your weekly or monthly routine. New trails, new circuits, abound. It only takes a map (Google Earth will do) and a little time. It might involve talking to an older runner or two about where they run.

I know, you have your tried-and-true circuits. But, nothing pushes the boredom aside like running someplace you've never run before. Exploring adds a whole new dimension to running.

There are always way more possibilities than what we consider. To illustrate, think of running in the Sandias. Between the various trailheads and various trails on the eastern edge of Albuquerque, you could run a different circuit every day from now to February and still not exhaust the possibilities. I don't necessarily recommend that a runner, and especially a relatively new runner, run Sandia-serious kind of hills every day, but maybe you get my point even so.

So, you want some flat? Well, there's the bosque.

Running the bosque brings an interesting point to the fore. Let's just say that some trails through the bosque are sketchier than others. It might be a great idea--on a couple different fronts--to make a personal policy of not running alone except on trails you are very comfortable with. Not only is the safety factor important, but the companionship factor is huge as well.

For most people, the enjoyment of running goes up sharply when you run with someone. Find that someone.

In addition to finding new places to run--and people to run with--you can tweak the old routes. Is there a cut-off or a spur trail available on a route you take with regularity? Try the cut-off or spur route. Try adding a piece to a run that will take you through a local park. Try something as simple as running a route in the opposite direction you always run it and see how many things you pick up on that you never noticed before.

Don't run five miles every day. Run seven one day and three the next. That alone expands the possibilities of where you can run. And, it's good training practice as well.

For some, where public lands are not plentiful nearby, perhaps ask about running on private property. If you're courteous, respectful, and don't make assumptions, you may find that private property owners are willing to allow some runs. You also may not, because, well, life just is that way sometimes. But, it's not a bad idea to ask. Never run on private land without asking first.

You may find that breaking out of the established running patterns means biking now and then. Some runners view biking as giving in. Maybe, in some cases, it is. But, if "giving in" keeps you at six workouts a week and interested in what you're doing, that's a lot better than four or five days a week and barely hanging on to the will the keep running.

An all-or-nothing-at-all outlook on things often morphs into the enemy of running well.

It would be nice if you can find a race or two to help keep things sharp, and interesting, between now and the middle of February. But, there are some obstacles there.

There may or may not be an indoor track season in New Mexico this winter. If I had to guess right now, I'd guess not. On the other hand, if travel-and-quarantine regulations dial back a little in coming months, it may be worth considering crossing the state line and running a race in Texas, Arizona, or Colorado.

Even if you take only one idea away from this article and build on that one idea, you've enhanced your chances of being one of those the state will be hearing about in March. Locking into all the same old routines isn't likely to make you more enthusiastic about running.