by Julie Parker
Rounding the last bend of my morning run, my stride opens up and I crush the familiar stretch of singletrack back to the car — I feel like I’m gliding. My heart is pounding, sweat dripping, and I hit the finish button on my GPS. The app spins for a few seconds, then loads the results: 12:48/mi PR. Oh Hell yeah.
Okay, maybe running isn’t my strong suit. In fact, my strides have the grace of a beached sea lion. My knees knock together and my feet flip out beyond my hips. I’ve had five knee surgeries, and it shows.
Plus, I like to stop, walk, or take photos of my dog Chief when the trail gets steep. And sometimes, if I’m tired or distracted, I’ll go for a “run” that in truth is actually more akin to a hike. Needless to say, my Strava account is private.
But when I’m loping (or walking) along the trail with my dog, bumping tunes in my earbuds, I feel friggin’ good. And to me, that’s the beauty of running. I move at whatever pace comes naturally and get where I’m going eventually. It’s not about speed, distance, or racing. I’m happy just to “get out.”
Unfortunately, I didn’t always feel that way. For years, I entertained delusional aspirations of joining the ranks of fleet-footed ultra runners criss-crossing the Rockies in 3-inch split shorts. I pursued running like I had other sports, by training and setting goals. But all I ever got was tired, injured and unmotivated.
Things changed the first time I saw a professional runner’s stride. I was on the bike path in Carbondale, Colorado, walking Chief, and my friend and Trail Sister, Gina Lucrezi, was hauling ass straight towards me. Her legs were like pistons, firing up and down in a mechanically perfect motion and rhythm. She was moving so fast, like a gazelle crossing the African plains, and with such little effort. It was like nothing I had ever seen before — worlds apart from my ungainly gait.
At that moment I was struck by several truths about my running: I will always suck. Some people are physiologically gifted, but I’m not. And, as much as I love Gina, I don’t ever want to go for a run with her.
But what she gave me by running along the path in my direction, was the epiphany I needed to let go of any expectations I had surrounding running. I quit worrying about my time and mileage, and finally allowed myself to run … simply because it makes me feel good.
And now I run more than ever—reveling in my 13 minute miles—and embrace the detours for Instagram photos, and the odd “catch my breath” walk. I no longer train or actively try to improve, although I like to say, “it’ll happen organically.” But honestly, I have other goals in my life that I’m always pushing toward—a career, rock climbing, my marriage. And, running, well, that’s just something I get to do for fun.
Julie is a rock climber, backcountry skier and trail runner exploring the Pacific Northwest with her husband, Chris and dog, Chief in a converted Sprinter van. She balances her focused pursuit of climbing with her love of expectation-free running. When not dangling off the side of a cliff, she has built a decade-long career in the outdoor industry as a digital marketing expert and graphic designer.
- Instagram: @juliechief
- Website: Juliesadventure.com