What Running Reminded Me about Distractions

The start to my typical running route in the evening (I typically run in the predawn hours). June 5, 2013.

The start to my typical running route in the evening (I typically run in the predawn hours). June 5, 2013.

When I run a familiar running route—and I have two or three favorites—my pace clocks and feels faster. New or unusual routes feel eternal, far from fluid, and they always time out more slowly.

Seems strange, doesn’t it?

I enjoy running new routes. I see and learn so much more about a place—including Houston—when I run it. So you’d think the excitement of the different would pull me forward. That I’d feel such enthusiasm about seeing what’s around the next bend that I’d run faster.

Yet it doesn’t work that way. And, quite frankly, I generally prefer running the tried-and-true, familiar routes.


On a familiar route, I focus on my run. New paths distract me with directions, route, what’s ahead, whether I need to conserve energy for a hill, whether the slope I’m on is short or long, whether Google Maps is right about a sidewalk on that major street up ahead or whether I’ll have to suddenly shift course, how far I’ve run—and how much farther I have to go.

With a familiar route, I know what to expect and how much of my planned distance I’ve covered. I can pay attention only to my exertion level and how hard I can push.

Chalk another one up to distractions.

If I want to accomplish something—a proposal, an article, a contract review, a scene in my fiction—e-mail, interruptions via phone and office drop-ins, and juggling anything in addition to the task at hand slows me down and hinders quality work.

Studies show that multitasking adversely affects learning and reduces productivity by approximately 40 percent. (Zounds.) In addition, multitasking spikes stress levels. (And who needs more stress?)

I know distractions engender problems. Yet in practice, I often fail at focus.

So herein I commit to determining my intention in any given moment—what most needs my focus?—and directing my attention toward completing only that objective efficiently and effectively before tackling something else.

A hard challenge, focus, but a doable one.

What are your biggest distractions?