run park womanRunning the same routine can become boringly predictable. A change in scenery can go a long way when you wish to power up your run. Switching up your normal routine will introduce different elevations, surfaces, and you may feel inspired for longer or faster distances. All of these factors will make you a better runner.

I have reached the homestretch of my half-marathon training, but still have a few more miles to log in before race day. This weekend my family and I drove (10 hours) from New York to North Carolina to surprise visit my uncle for his birthday. We did this drive Friday night into Saturday, the day of my long-mile runs. The car ride was the perfect mental rest I needed from the business in life and being the backseat passenger allowed me to stretch my long legs. I still couldn’t wait to take strides under the warm North Carolina sun.

I ran 5.02 miles at a  11:51 min/mi pace throughout the picturesque community. It was probably the best running weather I experience since summer and I found the change in climate challenging in the right ways. Although it was hot enough to run in a tank top, the sights showed that there was still the changing of seasons. There were leafless trees lined neatly on thick-grassed properties. Their branches grew into knotted that took the shape of human hearts, their souls exposed in their nakedness. Along the same roads were dainty white-flowered trees, so pure. They would be tainted by the changing season, buds turning green in envy before taking their plunge to the ground, as if it were an act of suicidal shame.

Studies have shown that after about only three or four weeks of the same -intensity training program, the benefits of running tend to plateau. Your increase in VO2 max and anaerobic threshold stalls. The decrease in heart rate and blood-lactate concentrations also stalls. So my North Carolina run was just what I needed after the same course run in the past three weeks. The development was full of hills that made me dig deep, using my glutes and quads to full capacity. It felt good to push my lower body and kick my hill training at home up a notch.

The scenery was breath taking, the terrain was breath strengthening, but the sight of runners was the most motivating part of my run. Probably because of the warm weather, there were over a handful or fellow joggers, runners, and walkers outside being active. It made me feel slightly competitive and made me want to embrace the day and be present in my run. The southern hospitality was soothing, as runners and I either locked eyes, waved, smiled, or head nodded in approval to each other.

Even though I was on vacation, the feel good vibes I had from my Saturday run made me want to wake up early and go for a short recovery run on Sunday. The weather was cooler and it began to drizzle towards the end of my run, which is my favorite weather to be out in. My sister and I ran in neighborhood off the main road of our hotel, up and down hills that we conquering in interval sprints. A well-behaved golden retriever barked at us along one block, protecting its fortress. He had on no leash, which made me run past the house a bit faster, my heart rate further increasing. He stayed within the perimeter of his fenceless property, as I expected to see owner’s eyes poke up from a window. There were no signs of life during this run, just the presence of southern air. I leaned my head back, sucking in its smells, feeling alive as if something in water had given me some rebirth.

My sister and I stopped at a playground to rock climb, swing on swings, and attempt pull-ups. The latter didn’t go so well, but just being out in a new community, experiencing nature and boosting my endorphin levels was enough to boost my overall mood for the remainder of my trip.

Sometimes new running scenery can put a new perspective on things—whether it’s regarding your goals, training regimen, thoughts, or any other areas in life. I feel recharged to now get back to every life, and even more ready for Saturday’s half.

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