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In Praise of Ordinary Running

With many runners’ goal races, perhaps half marathons and marathons, behind them, I’m beginning to hear the term “off season” these days.  In school “off season” was the term coaches used to plead—or scare—runners so we wouldn’t abandon running and get out of shape.

Now off season is one of my favorite times of year as a runner.  Simply put, my off season is the deliberate time I take away from structured training designed toward a race goal.  The focus of my off season is simple: ordinary running.

Ordinary Ordinary running is your basic get-out-there-and-put-in- the-miles running.  It doesn’t have a technical name like Tempo, Interval, Pace, or Long.  And it doesn’t define our weekly running by increasing the number of miles or repetitions or speed of our runs. 

Like the term "off season" somehow, the term “ordinary running” carries an unflattering reputation—like undisciplined or sloughing off.  Sometimes ordinary running is seen as second class because we use it when we’re not focused on a race or when we’re recovering from an injury. 

In defense of ordinary running, even without calculated goals, ordinary running is abundant with benefits. I enjoy just letting my running body find a place it can enjoy in a low-key mode, where it can have more fun and more stress relief.  Rather than get absorbed in week after week of advanced planning, I’ll spend more time alone with my running thoughts and dwell less on my pace. 

Shifting my running to ordinary doesn’t close any doors to achievement or enjoyment with my running.  In fact through the repetition of ordinary running during my off season, usually a phenomenon takes place—improvement.   My body actively recovers from the stress of the competing season.  My stride becomes smoother, my core muscles get stronger, and my ordinary pace gets faster.  I’ll discover some new insights, achieve new capabilities, and set some new goals. 

I already have my sight set on a spring marathon, and the time to train for it will be here soon enough.  For now, I’m enjoying the transition to the off season and the treat ordinary running  brings.   

The ordinary running in my off season is vital to my running life.  It’s legitimate running and it’s earned.  The reality is ordinary running during the off season is a key component for me to achieving the full benefits of my running.   I’ll emerge better, healthier, lighter, and more refreshed when it’s time to train again next spring.  And deep down I know that ordinary running is the foundation of what running breakthroughs are made of.

Adios training.  Hello ordinary running!

Ordinary sign on Flickr by Patrick Cates


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The Laminator

Well said. Just slightly more eloquent than my tip of the week, as posted on my blog, which is that "Sometimes in running, we have to run slow enough to smell the roses..." I am so looking forward to that after the marathon this weekend. Thanks for helping me keep that in mind. Have a great off-season!

Kent (Bowulf)

This would of course assume my runs were anything extra-ordinary to begin with. :-) Ordinary is a very comfy place to hang out, but I am afraid my base-building is going to have its own challenges. I hear that the miles you put in today will not benefit you tomorrow, but it will next year. I want to build that running and strength deposit up over this period between plans to make future injuries less likely.


It is fun to read everyone's off season plans. I'm glad you get to be a little relaxed and have fun with it. I was thinking sort of the opposite. I was just trying to get the miles in for the training without getting hurt. Since I am such a newbie, it was all I could do to get the miles in. Now I am thinking about more hill work, intervals, etc. Would love to pick up the pace a bit. Is this an okay time to do this? I assume you still reap the benefits later? I have so many questions :)


I start my spring half-marathon training January 1st!


I have to admit that in the last month or so of my marathon training was actually spent anticipating the marathon being OVER. I was excited and nervous, yes. But more than anything, I found myself looking forward to doing something different. Now that it's over, I don't look at this time as "ordinary running" . This is my FUN TIME!!! I get to play, experiment, go off road, ride, skate and generally enjoy the newfound fitness level I gained over the last year. All without the fear of breaking an ankle and destroying everything I had worked for...!


I'm currently training towards a 10K race on December 15th. After that I look forward to joining you in "ordinary running". It can be such a freeing experience, I'll often go out without a watch or an MP3 player.


I've gotten so strange with training, that I barely act like I'm training even when I am. That will probably wear off soon enough, though.


After Dec 9th I will return to ordinary running and I can't wait. I am excited to mix the routine up a bit until the next training begins.


It is nice, isn't it? Just to be able to run however many miles I feel like is cool.


Ordinary running is a great term -- I had the term "off season." Sounds boring and lazy!


Ordinary running is far from ordinary. It's the deposit I make into my running bank, and it's the dessert in the meal of life. :)


Well said! I must admit, "ordinary running" scares me a little bit. What if I lose my discipline and stop running altogether? What if I stop doing my long runs? I just need to remember that I am a runner because I AM A RUNNER - not because I'm training for something. Great post!


I don't remember the last time I ran just to run. It seems that I've been training for something since the first time I started running. I make schedules and I can't break them. A little psychotic, but I need the training to force me to get out of bed.

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