The Perfect Run

There are so many aspects which are a part of every run we go on that it seems almost impossible to expect to ever have what we might call a ‘perfect run.’ The weather could always be a little more pleasant, the scenery a little more breathtaking, and our bodies a little stronger (to name but a few reasons why a run could be made even better). In this sense it would be easy to subscribe to the belief that there is no such thing as the ‘perfect run.’ The reason I can’t subscribe to this belief though, is that I have had a handful of perfect runs.

By no means are these perfect runs an easy thing to come by. Ninety-nine percent (or more) of the runs I’ve been on could have been better if certain aspects of the run were better. Every now and then though, a run in its totality seems to trump all of these individual aspects. When this happens it doesn’t even really matter what the weather is like or how our bodies are feeling. We can get to this place more often when the weather is great or when our bodies feel really strong, but a perfect run is a run in which the weather, the scenery, your body, or any other external factors seem to cease to exist. It is a run when you get done and you don’t even know what the weather was like or you don’t care how your body felt. This isn’t to say that you are not noticing these things around you, but instead that you are so in tune with everything around you that you cease putting any quantifiable value on them. It is when the scenery becomes not something that you see with your eyes, but something that you see yourself as a part of.

In a sense I would say that I am touching on the meditative, or maybe even spiritual aspects of running. This isn’t really something that has a specific explanation, but instead something that you must experience to understand. If you are unsure if you have felt what I’m talking about then you could start by looking closely at the handful of most satisfying runs you have ever had. If you can pinpoint the specific things about these runs that made them so satisfying then you are probably thinking about a different type of run than I am talking about here. On the other hand, if you seem to have a few standout runs that you simply know were your best runs ever, but you can’t really quantify aspects of these runs that made them so great, then you are likely thinking of what I’m calling a ‘perfect run.’

I wish I could better put into words what these ‘perfect runs’ feel like to me. The most telling specific things I can say about these runs is that I feel like I have more overall energy after them than I had before (no matter how tired my muscles might feel); that I find myself laughing, crying, or smiling for seemingly no reason several times throughout the run; that I am often reminded (typically at seemingly unlikely times) of these runs for days, weeks, or even years after; and that when thinking back to these runs I can’t remember any specific thoughts that I had during them–only the things which stimulated my senses: sights, sounds, smells, and body sensations.

To me, these perfect runs are the primary reason I maintain a habit of running. Sometimes they are frustratingly elusive, but one of them is enough to encourage me to run for weeks, months, or even years in hopes of having another. I have had these kinds of runs in such a wide array of settings (races, roads, trails, bushwhacking off trail) such that I am drawn to all types of running in search of more. The longer I go without one of these runs the more I crave them. It has been over six months since I last had one (and more than 18 months to the one previous to that), and thus I find myself constantly hoping and searching for the next one. Of course, as with most things like this, trying too hard to achieve one of these runs makes them even less likely to occur. More often than not these runs have come to me when I least expect them.

It may be several months (or longer) until I have another, or I may have one tomorrow. But no matter when it is, I look forward to every run I go on knowing that I will have another of these perfect runs eventually, and knowing that I will come out the other end a wiser, more satisfied, and more enlightened person. Searching for this is the primary reason I lace up the shoes and step out the door as often as I do.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Have you had the kind of run like what Geoff describes, a run where you just disappear into the sensory act of motion?
  • If you have had one of those runs, can you describe what you remember from it, what it was like for you?