The Everyman: Lessons Learned On A Run

How can you not enjoy running through this? Photo: Jason Devaney | Competitor.com

For Jason Devaney, running is an experience that goes beyond fitness.

I’ll be the first one to tell you that I don’t run as often I should. In my mind, excuses are often a good reason not to head out the door.

But when I do manage to get out, I’m the first one to say each run, in general, was better than the last. And I’m not even talking about fitness.

I mean mentally, each run is like an experience for me. In a good way.

Last Friday I went out for an 8-mile jaunt that started on pavement, brought us through a park on packed gravel and dirt, and circled back the same way. It’s the gravel and dirt part I want to focus on this week.

I haven’t been a runner all my life, and the majority of my running occurs on pavement — the road and the local bike/running trail. But when I take my runs through something other than the hard asphalt, my body senses something it likes.

The pounding sensation in my feet, ankles and knees? Gone. The thwack thwack sound of my shoes colliding with the ground every stride? Replaced with a soft crunch crunch of the gravel or dirt.

It’s pretty amazing. And it’s something I’d like to do more of.

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I have my goals on the road this season, which begins at the Rock ’n’ Roll DC Half Marathon this Saturday. And there are the triathlons and perhaps a marathon that will occur later this year.

But the trails? I need to start looking for a race on something other than pavement. Not that I want to tackle the Colorado Trail anytime soon. But maybe a late-season 50K, as my colleague Mario Fraioli just conquered — although I suppose I should start with a 5K or 10K. Here’s a proposal: Let’s rip up half of the roads in the United States and replace them with gravel. That would be a good place to start.

Friday’s 8-miler was one of the best runs of my life. We saw deer, ran through a horse farm, and enjoyed a relatively car-free journey through a park. And the next morning, my legs felt like they hadn’t ever left the house.

As I write this, I’m about to head out for a mid-afternoon training run ahead of this weekend’s half. Perhaps I’ll take a detour and head down a dirt road on the way back.

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