In stark contrast to these runs though, are the day in and day out runs that fill in the gaps between these larger, planned out runs. Often when I set out the door on "the daily run" I have no idea where or for how long I am going to go. Every now and then I do an entire one of these runs and never really come to a place of feeling like I want to be running at that time. More often than not though, I get a few minutes into one of these runs and things start to fade away. I stop thinking about the story I read while I was drinking my coffee in the morning. I stop thinking about the emails I sent just before heading out the door. I stop thinking about what I'm going to cook for dinner. Eventually my mind comes really present and I begin to really feel my body, and really notice the things going on in the mountains around me. Sometimes this only takes a few minutes, and other times it takes hours, but almost without fail, no matter how much I think that I didn't want to go out for a run on any particular day, I end up coming back home at the end of the run feeling nourished by the fact that I stepped out the door, onto the trail, and went off into the mountains.
I've always known that these daily runs were an important part of moving somewhere close to our potential as runners, but more and more lately I'm beginning to feel that these are actually just as important as the larger, more planned out runs. This might sound contradictory to a post I wrote awhile back talking about the importance of consistency over the long haul as compared to shorter term, day in and day out consistency. In actuality though, I think the two go hand in hand. I'm not saying that it's necessary (or even beneficial) to get out on a run every day, but rather that the shorter, less focused, less planned runs which fill in the gaps between the longer, more planned, destination runs seem to be the key to really being in the kind of shape we need to be in to push toward our physical potential as runners. You can have a lot of fun just doing the destination runs with friends, but if this is all you do you will slowly become less and less fit. I speak from experience here because this is essentially what I have done for the past 2 months. About two weeks ago I returned to the habit of filling in the gaps with shorter, less planned, even somewhat boring at times, daily runs. There is certainly nothing glamorous about these runs, but without them we quickly fall from being capable of performing at anywhere near our optimal level. In this regard these "mundane" runs might be as important as any runs we do. Physically I think we can get by without the big destination runs, and continue to become more and more fit, and more and more capable as runners. I don't think the same can be said for the daily runs that fill in the gaps.
I guess the obvious question then is, what about mentally? Can we continue to grow emotionally and mentally as runners if we are only doing the daily runs, and not the destination runs? That's an interesting question, and one that I think varies from person to person. For me I think the answer is no, and thus the need for both of these types of runs is created, neither one necessarily more important than the other. Both equally important parts of a sometimes difficult to solve puzzle. The one is certainly a lot more glamorous than the other, but glamour of course isn't inherently synonymous with significance, a reality that is sometimes easy to forget, especially in those first few minutes of a daily run when we feel like the last thing we want to be doing at that time is going for a run. Thankfully that feeling rarely seems to last for too long.