Housekeeping: I sent a group email out earlier this week. Check your inbox or spam folder. If you didn't get one, write me at and I'll have Santa deliver it down the chimney.

So.....Sunday, I took myself to the Towpath Trail in Clinton and covered 3 miles - 2.5 of it running, with a half-mile walking break in the middle. The temperature was mild and I felt great. As I completed my third mile, the MapMyRun lady voice announced my average pace: 16:02. What the heck? Did I just pass through some mystical vortex that messed with my app? Seriously, if iím going to run that slow, I might as well walk!

Wednesday, I went back to the trail for another 3 miles. It was approaching 80 degrees. I took three or four very short walking breaks, even stopped to snap a photo of the canal locks. But I couldnít wait to get back to the car and pour a bottle of water over my head. As I approached the parking lot, the MapMyRun lady voice announced the end of my third mile, as well as my average pace: 14:36.

I canít explain why my pace was so significantly different, but now I'm wondering if I just played better head games on Wednesday.

Let me explain.

First, I always drive myself to a Towpath trailhead or park. I pick different ones because the change in scenery turns something routine into an adventure. Besides, running in the neighborhood is sort of like trying to work from home in my pajamas. If I have to dress up and drive somewhere, then I mean business!

Anyway, I always hit the trail with high hopes. ďThis is the day,Ē I tell myself. ďIím going to go farther. Iím going to go faster. And Iím going to feel great when Iím done!Ē

But that eagerness is tested after the first mile when other thoughts filter in, uninvited but inevitable. ďUgh, 2 more miles to go. Iím not even halfway. I canít possibly run 2 more miles. Why am I running at all? Good lord, Iím 56 years old and overweight. Iím allowed to walk the 8k. Just walk the dang thing.Ē

That's when I pull up my trusty list of head games.

††† Thereís a house burning in the distance. I hear a scream. Thereís no one else around. Only me. I gotta get there, fast!
††† That biker who just rode past me? He told me my older brother (who often accompanies me) is up ahead and breathing with difficulty. Theyíve called 9-1-1 but heís asking for me. I gotta get there, fast!
Some rich bloke is standing at the next trailhead. Heís going to give me a million bucks if I reach him before any other pedestrian on the towpath. I gotta get there, fast!

Not all of my head games involve life, death or riches. Sometimes Iíll tell myself, Iím not running 3 miles at all. Iím just going to run 1.5 miles. Straight ahead. Of course, 1.5 miles drops me off in the middle of nowhere. I have no choice but to get myself out of there. So after I celebrate completing my 1.5 mile run, I shrug and think, ďThat wasnít so bad. I can do that one more time.Ē So I turn around, and start running back.

Sometimes I play head games using the music on my head set. ďIf I can run for one more song, then Iíll walk. Just one song. What is that, four minutes? Keep running. Keep running.Ē Then the song ends. ďHmmm, that wasnít so bad. I can run for one more song. Just one more. Thení Iíll walk, right?Ē Before I know it, Iíve run through six songs.

Other times I'll pick a tree near the trail in the distance. "Just get to that tree. That's all you need to do. Then we'll stop." Of course, I don't stop. I pick the next tree. "THAT tree will be the last tree. Honest!"

I donít remember exactly which head games I played on Sunday. But clearly on Wednesday, I saved someone from a fire, got to my brother before the ambulance, won a million bucks, surveyed a bunch of trees and attended a concert. Not a bad morning.

- Paula

Oh, here's that picture of the Clinton canal locks :)