One of my coaching clients, Tara, wisely labels some runs as “soul runs.” These may not be the fastest, but they feed your soul in some way. Another of my athletes, Erin, had a soul run on Monday. A fourth-year medical student training for Ironman South Africa, she’s on rotation in New Orleans. Here’s an entertaining excerpt from her log.

SUPER AMAZING RUN OF AWESOMENESS!!! After my first day that was completely free of school obligations and sleeping for 12 hours last night, I felt rested for the first time in 2 weeks. Finally made it to the store to replace defective iPod shuffle purchased 2 months ago. Had a conversation with a radiologist during my last shift that resulted in him recommending good running music, which I promptly downloaded onto said iPod. Hit the road. Perfect weather and I felt great! Fell into an easy pace that felt quicker than usual. Was able to step it up a bit for tempo intervals and fall back to a recovery pace that also felt quicker than usual. Ran through the French Market (paused the iPod, too much good music coming from the bars and cafés), up along the river, and then through the museam/art gallery area, which is less crowded with less traffic and cool art to look at through gallery windows. From there headed back up to the river to catch the sunset, was cheered on by a drunk homeless man, cut back through the Quarter and stopped during my cooldown to pet two miniature horses and a baby goat that were hanging out with their owners at a sidewalk cafe, then ran by a dude with a giant boa constrictor hanging around his neck (didn’t stop to pet that). Love this city!

On a side note, I’ve found that despite what would seem to be an unmanageable workload (see the twelve hours of sleep referenced above!), ultra endurance events and medical careers are not mutually exclusive. There’s a rhythm to hospital schedules that nicely complements the training. I’ve worked with a nurse training for a 100-mile run, and the time he spent on his feet in overnight shifts built his focus and endurance for the ultra distance. Physiologically, too, we were able to send him on easy runs off an overnight (he’d often run home from the hospital), to practice maintaining form and focus while fatigued.

Next time you feel you can’t fit your training into your life, consider that it’s all a question of balance and perspective. You are only one super amazing run of awesomeness away from feeding your soul and finding a dynamic balance between work and play.