In Community, Guest Contributors

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.”

 

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Julie getting some quality mountain time. Photo credit: Bryan Aulick @bryanaulick

 

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.

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Julie getting some quality mountain time. Photo credit: Bryan Aulick @bryanaulick

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Showing 10 comments
  • Janice

    Love love love this. Thanks for sharing. I’m also not a natural runner and am also in the back of the pack. But I try and enjoy the strength of my body and am grateful for all the miles I’ve gone. Great post. ?? Janice

    • Julie Parker

      Thanks for reading Janice!

  • Justus

    Yes!! 13 minute miles for the win.

  • Erika

    Thank you for this! I LOVE trail running, and while I am getting faster, I am no where near where most of my friends (and husband) are. So, thanks for the reminder that it’s okay to do it just how it works for me : )

  • Tracey P.

    Julie, THANK YOU.I love running but I don’t love all the blogs and instagram posts about 7 min miles being "slow". It’s very hard today to not compare yourself or your min/mile to someone else. For a long time I tried to live up to those times. Now, I would rather read about how much you enjoy running and what your thoughts were on that run. About how it has helped you in your daily struggles, etc. If we want to improve – we will. In.our. own. sweet. time. and maybe never. But like you said – we are out there and having fun. You are the kind of person I would LOVE to run with! Happy Trails!

  • Barbara

    Fantastic. I recently got my mind around this exact way of thinking and it’s changed all my runs. THANK YOU! Keep on running. And walking. And taking pictures. Life – and every run – is about the journey.

  • Burt

    Wow – what a terrific essay, Julie. As a back of the pack runner, I can totally relate to this. A great relief. I hope to see you on the trail someday. 🙂

  • John McLarty

    Love it Julie! As an old man who was never fast and now is a bit slower every year, I run for fun. Even 22 minute miles on the PCT in Mt. Rainier National Park or on the American Ridge Trail or the Wonderland Trail up through Summerland and over Panhandle Gap are glorious beyond words and the stops and slowness just give more time to soak up the grandeur.

  • Pam

    Thank you! I’ve been a 12-13 mm for along time. I seem to have a lot of fast friends and that has made the experience of running a bit isolating, frustrating, and disappointing for me. I will continue to train to get strong, and if the pace drops, great. If it doesn’t, fine. I might never have a running buddy again, but I will still have the joy of my run.

  • Molly

    as a back of the packer, this makes me so happy <3 thanks for sharing!

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