When I started running ten years ago, my good friend and running partner introduced me to the NER. The No Excuse Run. It’s the run that doesn’t require a drive to the park, a plan for which route to take, or to be any particular length.
The NER is simply the route that you run from the front door of your house, and it only has to make you feel good. Over the past ten years, I’ve lived in three different houses and in each one I had a NER route.
In the past two years, my No Excuse Run has become both my last-resort run and my almost-only run. It has been harder to find the time to drive to Forest Park or Creve Coeur Park. Work, kids, family obligations, sunrise and sunset times…they all factor into this new reality that the NER is all I can run most days.
My NER is a 3.1 loop that has me run along and then cross Big Bend Road. There are four stoplights within the first 1.5 miles. If I’m lucky, I only get stopped once…but that’s only if I’m lucky. From 1.5-2 miles, I run through a neighborhood. This half-mile is my longest stretch of uninterrupted running! Between miles 2 and 3.1, there are 3 more stoplights, and I’m never lucky enough to get through all three without having to stop.
For a while, I welcomed the chance to stop. I would often push myself to run just a little faster because I knew a “break” would come soon. It felt like I was challenging myself, maybe even getting in a little speed workout. But in the back of mind I was questioning…What is all this mid-run stopping doing to my endurance and pacing?
The new route is 3.3 miles with a wicked downhill at the beginning and of course. Whatever goes down, must come back up. The last part of the run is uphill, and then uphill again. But the middle 1.3 miles is relatively flat, through a neighborhood without any stoplights. The first time I ran this route, I had to stop after 1.5 miles. What!? I couldn’t believe it. I’m in better shape than that. I run 3.1 miles all the time.
If you were driving by, you could have seen the lightbulb flash on over my head: because of the stoplights on my NER, I always stopped within the first 1.5 miles. I kept running. I struggled with finding a good pace and being able to maintain it. I couldn’t believe how the old NER, with all its stops, had impacted my legs, breathing, and rhythm. When I made it back home, I knew I had to change my NER.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been running my new NER. My pacing, breathing, and endurance have improved. This route definitely has it’s own challenges, especially the uphills at the end, but at least I have a route that doesn’t require me to stop. Today, I ran early and decided to run my original NER route. It was a great run. I enjoyed pushing myself to run slightly faster, because I knew a stop would be soon.
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