One of the great pleasures I get from running is what I call the payoff run. What is a payoff run? For me, it is a little reward during a run that provides a payoff for my hard work. Most often the reward comes in the form of some type of visual, scenery for example.
In my early years of running as an adult, I was completely focused on training and improving my performance. Training runs were a means to an end. How I was going to get that PR in my next race. I’m not sure if I realized at the time that running provides much, much more. Don’t get me wrong-performance goals are still important to the competitor in me. But I have found as I have gotten older that there is a joy to running that goes beyond metrics. It is not about how fast I can get from point A to point B; it is more about what I experience along the way.
Payoff runs can come in many forms. They can be completely planned or totally unexpected. Over the last couple of years as I have pursued my multi-sport goals, I have had many opportunities for payoff runs. For example, in my neighborhood we often have herds of deer that are mostly domesticated. Recently I was on an early morning pre-dawn run and the deer were out. As I was running along in the silence of the morning a few of the deer were a little startled and were kind of running along beside me. Look at me, I thought, I’m running with deer! It was a nice little unplanned payoff that inspired me for the rest of the workout.
I often like to head out on a run with no particular plan and pick my route as I go. I was exploring one morning, looked below an overpass I was on and saw a trail I had not previously known about. Sure, I’ll try that, I thought, and down I went. My run went from another routine workout pounding the pavement to a very cool trail run. The trail was just a short excursion but the simple payoff was well worth it.
Sometimes I plan payoff runs. If I know an area of town that will provide me with a good view, I’ll try and work it into the route. For example, there is a creek that crisscrosses a back road in northwest Austin that I often incorporate into my long runs. I know after it rains the creek is flowing and the chances are good that I’ll see some nice waterfalls. It is a double payoff with the visual of the waterfall along with the sounds of the water flowing during an early morning run. Pretty awesome.
Over the past year, I have spent quite a bit of time in southern New Jersey for a work assignment. I was amazed at all of the unexpected payoffs I got while training near the Jersey Shore. Here are a few examples (sorry for the “selfie” but it was the only picture I had of the waterfall):
Probably my two best payoff runs happened in Arizona while on vacation. The Crew Chief and I have a favorite destination that we try to get to once or twice a year. It is located near Sedona in a place called Boynton Canyon. I love trail running there and I always get the payoff when I run. On one of our visits, I found a trail that led to the “Devils Arch,” which sounded cool so I went. After a long climb, out of nowhere I was standing in front of this incredible arch with a scenic view of the canyon below. It was amazing and the payoff was a jackpot!
The second one was completely unexpected. I decided to try a run up a trail on the backside of the canyon. I kept climbing with no sign of any end, and I almost turned around several times. I was tired and really had no idea how much further to the destination (whatever it was). But I kept going, determined to get the end of the trail and get my payoff. And I did. I ended up on a big overlook with the canyon walls on either side of me and an incredible view down into the valley. Payoff achieved.
I have definitely learned to occasionally slow down and take in the sights, and I always look for the opportunity for a payoff run.