So let me be honest about how my running is going these days.
It’s not. I barely ran three miles last week.
Seoul is, hands-down, the worst city I’ve ever had the displeasure of running in. Like the rest of the world, Seoul is experiencing the same global heatwave. Yesterday, the high was 97 with a heat index of 107. That makes for no-bueno running.
The real drag, however, is the fact that Seoul is a mega-city with over 10 million people…many of whom are taxi drivers who will not hesitate to run you over, even if you have the right of way!
The city is a maze of small, one-way streets (I would call them alleys.) without sidewalks and broader roads, choked with traffic and pedestrians. Finding an uninterrupted stretch of sidewalk is all but impossible.
I try to get out for a run with the Seoul Flyers on the weekend, but it takes me at least 45 minutes by subway each way for a three- or four-mile run. That’s just depressing.
One of the things I enjoy about running is its simplicity. In Chambana, I can open my door and get on my way. I can run alone or with friends, in a variety of weather conditions, no special equipment needed besides my shoes. Running makes me feel better and helps relieve some of my daily stress.
Here, running is not simple, and what’s more, it’s stress-inducing. Planning to get up early to catch the subway (and transfer twice) to get to the river? Sucking down smoggy air under the relentless summer sun? Fearing for my life in traffic and having a witless teenager slam into me with his mountain bike [This happened. He got some choice words.]? Navigating these situations is making me miserable.
So I had to step back and evaluate my priorities. It’s not worth it to persevere in these situations just to maintain a meager weekly mileage. I think runners too often get trapped in the pattern of Garmins and speed work and mileage logs and forget that running should, at its core, be about making you feel better.
And despite how inspirational commercials make me feel, I’m not an Olympic athlete. There was never a chance of gold medal glory in my future; frying myself out on the sidewalk just for kicks is silly. I won’t feel better if I run 11 miles instead of eight this week. If I choose walking instead of running until I get home, who cares? The answer? Only I care…and I choose not to care.
The purpose of this post isn’t to make you give up your summer running. Some people fare much better in the heat than I do and/or enjoy the challenge of battling the summer temperatures. If you’re training for a fall race, by all means, keep on keepin’ on! You are a rockstar! If you are, however, feeling miserable and browbeaten, consider cutting (way) back until you are motivated by a desire to run, not a sense of guilt.
I’m fighting the anxiety of low mileage, but it will all be okay. Running, like peanut butter, will be there for me on August 23rd when I touch down on US soil. And when I get out on fall runs with Body N’ Sole slugs, my triumphant return will be that much sweeter.