What I think about when I run

April 30, 2015

Dear Max

A lot of people ask me what I think about when I run, and the truth is, not much. When I run, it’s probably the most zoned out, or “still” my mind is. I don’t think about work, I don’t brood over things, I don’t come up with solutions to problems, and nor do I think of witty or meaningful blog posts to write.

Hours on the road yield no great thoughts or ideas or epiphanies. When I do think, it’s about the kilometres I have left, the worry I have to make it to the finish line in time, the pain and obstacles I try to overcome, and the maths. The maths involves working out how much time I have to complete the race before cutoff, or in a desired time.

These days, since I’ve slowed down so much, mostly I do maths around cutoff times rather than desired times, but after a few hours in the sun, my already inconsistent maths “skills” waiver. For example: “I have four hours to complete 30km. Yay! I can do it!” And then a minute later: “I think it’s actually three and a half hours to complete 30km. Crap! I don’t think I can do it”.


Other times, I’ll think about the chocolate milkshake at the finish (apparently it’s great for recovery – how convenient), the finish line, and often, ideas for tweets and Instagram captions.

But mostly, my mind is still and often vacant, which allows me to escape from myself. The more quiet the run, the more quiet my head, and sometimes, on long beautiful races, without the chatter and fanfare, I’m probably at the most “Zen” I could find myself.

I had this kind of run on the weekend in Clarens, when, running solo against a magnificent backdrop, all I could think about was the beauty around me, and the wonder of my own breath and legs, beating against the tar.

When the nothingness is there, it’s overwhelmingly beautiful. And welcome. And it’s one of the reasons I love running so much.





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  • Sharon

    Hahahaha! I so related… especially to the maths. My mathematically challenged brain is in overdrive trying to work out the sums every time I run a race.
    But yes, like you… my mind stills when I run and if I’m alone I completely zone out. The only way I can describe it is that it’s like being unconscious while running…. sometimes I’m not even sure how I get home I’m so zoned out during the run. Other times the text in my head reads: “Holy shit, I can’t believe I’m going this!”

    April 30, 2015 at 1:23 pm Reply
    • Tanya Kovarsky

      I love that – unconscious while running 🙂

      May 1, 2015 at 5:15 pm Reply
  • MeeA

    My experience is similar to this in that, instead of the frenetic chaos that consumes most of my waking hours, things slow down in my head and become somehow more ordered, less overwhelming; I can focus sharply on one thing at a time while I’m running, whether it’s a blog post idea or sorting through my reactions to or feelings about something… And sometimes, I simply marvel at the rhythm of my legs and feet moving, my breathing and my heartbeat and I picture myself making it to the end and feeling the satisfaction of having pushed myself and won against the voice that tells me every day how I’m not good enough.

    May 1, 2015 at 8:48 am Reply
    • Tanya Kovarsky

      Beautifully said 🙂 All the best with your Knysna training xx

      May 1, 2015 at 5:16 pm Reply
  • Bronwynne

    I write the most fantastic well-written blog posts in my head when I run. And then when I get back from my run and sit down to write, I can’t remember a thing or else what I do recall suddenly sounds ridiculous. It is my “count to 10” time when I’m stressed about work and find I suddenly don’t care about so and so and the workload. I’m calm and relaxed.

    May 3, 2015 at 4:38 pm Reply
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