The Fashion Magpie Run Free

Run Free.

Yesterday, I went running for the first time in two months. The hiatus was unwanted: a heel injury, and then I permitted life to get in the way. It is alarming how easy it is to fall out of a habit. After a few weeks of legitimate recovery, I found it distressingly effortless to continue to punt back my return-to-the-trail. “Not tomorrow because I have x…” and “Not Friday because I really need to run those errands instead” and “It’s Thanksgiving week! I’ll get back to it after the holiday…” Amazing how busy you can become when you allow yourself to pencil in alternatives to exercise in your schedule.

The most galvanizing tip I’ve ever received on habit formation came from a Magpie reader, who said (paraphrasing) that “exercising is not an option; it’s an imperative.” When she said that, I realized how difficult it had been for me to commit to a regular running routine because I had been treating it as a hypothetical. I had to retrain my mind to accept that running was not an “if I have time” kind of thing. It was an immovable block in my schedule, every other morning. I began to rearrange plans to accommodate it. On my calendar, every other morning between 9-10 am was grayed out to indicate NOTHING CAN HAPPEN HERE EXCEPT FOR RUNNING. Suddenly, running wasn’t ancillary to other activities, or that unwanted sixty minute block shoe-horned in after the fact. Because I often think in terms of grammar: running went from prepositional to predicate.

And so this hiatus left me disappointed in myself. I had slid back into my old ways! I’m all for giving myself grace when I need it, but I was really grasping at straws with this one. If I have time to read, I have time to run. And so —

My run yesterday was a tonic I drank thirstily. My body feels better, my mind feels lighter, and something about snapping back into the habit gives me the bracing sensation of realignment, as if I’ve been riding around on a bike with one semi-flat wheel that I’ve just now repaired.

I did something out of character for my run yesterday: I ran free. I did not track my mileage, pace, or time. And — though this was unplanned — ended up not running with any music. Just me, the pavement, the chill of the November air. I am competitive by nature (mainly with myself) and so this arrangement was uncomfortable at the start. How will I know when to pick up the pace? When should I turn around? By and by, these thought bubbles floated away and I found myself running in a way that felt good — invigorating, attainable — rather than hard. I usually push myself. Yesterday, I let myself fall into a gait that felt natural. I ran for completion rather than perfection. I ran just to run.

I think a big learning of the past few years, especially as I have had the time to reflect on my own writing and to offer counsel on occasion to other writers, is that we don’t always need to perform as though we are in high-stakes environments. Sometimes we are, and that’s that: we must muscle up and do our best. But most of the time, pressure is a choice. I can opt to make my running routine competitive, tracking my time and mileage, or I can not. I can try my hand at a new hobby and shrug laughingly at my ineptitude. I can attempt to complete one last to-do or I can give myself fifteen minutes to do nothing at all. I can say no to something that feels stressful. I can journal with no objective but to fill a page with half-formed thoughts. It is helpful, I think, to imagine that I am sometimes in a greater position of control than I think when it comes to the velocity of my daily life.


+On creating a buffer between my work self and my mom self.

+On lowering expectations.

+On remembering that the most important interval is the one we’re running right now.

+To the athlete at the start line.

+Speaking of beginnings, how do you start your day?

+200 runs through Central Park.

+A Bob Seger song I listened to *a lot* while running through Manhattan.

Shopping Break.

+Running in the cold yesterday made me grateful for the investments I made in good running gear last winter. These are my favorite items for exercise in the cold:





+Somehow this heatloft cropped funnel-neck is only $23!!!! I think I slightly prefer the longer length of the jacket and tunic to afford extra warmth around the mid-section but, I mean…$23?! I might have to pick one up, too.

+I have been running with the trendy Hoka One Ones for months now and think I will go back to Nike Flyknits again — Nikes just work better for me. I find them lighter-weight and less bulky.

+This is the only toothpaste my children will tolerate. Currently on sale in a pack of 3!

+More household must-haves and repeat-buys here.

+Desperate for an excuse to wear a white evening skirt like this. WOW.

+Love a statement puffer.

+How cute are these dino sweatshirts?! Both of my children would love these!

+Micro starts school (!) in January and I just realized I need to order all of his school gear. I just bought him this mini backpack in red (you can get $15 off using code WELCOME15, making it $30!) and one of these classic seersucker monogrammed lunchboxes with his monogram on the front. Mini has the same lunchbox and I like it because it’s insulated-ish (wipeable interior) and fits these three-compartment bento boxes perfectly. I’ve become a huge devotee of the bento boxes because they are microwave and dishwasher safe, the largest compartment is a great size for a sandwich or a serving of pasta (two lunch mainstays in my children’s diets), and I like having two other small compartments — one for fruit and the other for something crunchy (pretzels, granola balls, etc.). Also, they are cheap! So if they get lost or dinged up, it’s not as alarming as when the same fate befalls one of the more expensive bento options from Yumbox or Bentgo. Finally, I find my children can open these boxes on their own, without adult intervention, whereas some of the other models are a bit tricky for younger children.

+OMG this baseball stationery for a little one!

+This would be such a cute way to announce a pregnancy to soon-to-be grandparents.

+I love the dried citrus on this wreath, though we ended up buying a magnolia wreath for our front door this season!

+Speaking of front doors, I love these classic mats from Frontgate.

+This Etsy shop has truly showstopping gift wrap.

+Such a gorgeous light fixture.

+Cute stocking stuffer for an Elmo-obsessed little one.

+These pearl drop earrings are almost 50% off — pretty for a bride or a spring affair!

+Inspired by French kitchen design.

+This nail polish is stupidly expensive, but the red color is fabulous. I like that it comes in a dramatic Hermes box — thought immediately that it would be a fun gift to give alongside a gift card to a nail spa for a lady who enjoys a manicure.

+This tablecloth is beyond gorgeous.

+Year after year, these sweatshirts with the puffed sleeves are tres popular. I own in the ecru color!

+This denim mini is so cute!

+Cute dino sneaks for a little one.


  1. Yes!! Years ago, I was fresh out of college and ran a 5k with a co-worker whom I respected. I remember being aghast when she had no plans on checking her time after the race and said, “I don’t believe in timing myself when I run.” WHAT?! The competitive college athlete in me could not compute. I myopically thought, What’s the point???

    The point, I now see, is freedom. I *love* running with not a clue of how fast I’m going. Running for the feeling. (Reminds me of a song I love, Bill Callahan’s “Riding for the Feeling”.)

    Obviously, it doesn’t have to be an either/or, but I love your ability to connect this with larger themes in life. 🙂

    1. I love the way you phrased this — “Running for the feeling.” YES! Sometimes I feel like I’m so output oriented in every area of my life. It’s good to just do things for the pleasure of doing them!


  2. Love this. I am a longtime phone-free, music-free runner and those minutes spent running untethered are the most mentally clarifying, cleansing minutes of my week. I am injured right now and desperately missing the release of a good run. More so mentally than physically, interesting enough. I do wear a Garmin watch, but I unless I’m doing a specific workout that has me running intervals for certain distances or lengths of time, I often don’t even look at it. Or I set the display to just show me the data I need.

    Also, interesting that the below commenter said she finds relaxation and freedom in Strava, because I feel the opposite! A lot of my friends use the app but I would rather jump out the window than feel like someone is looking over my shoulder the whole time while I run. My Garmin data is just for me!

    1. I totally agree with your note on how “clarifying and cleansing” it is. It felt like taking a deep, full breath of mountain air.

      Going to be doing this more often. Sometimes I really need a beat to get myself going but now that I know how invigorating it can be to run free…going to alternate!


  3. Wow, I identify with this SO much – I love running (constant injuries aside), but often struggle with my hyper-competitive internal monologue the entire time. I recently switched from tracking my runs on Nike Run Club’s free app (10+ years of loyalty!) to the free version of Strava, purely because so many friends use the latter and it’s fun to give “kudos” and hype each other up from afar. However, Nike’s app would interrupt my audio to give mile marker pace updates, whereas Strava doesn’t (…or, more likely, I haven’t figured out how to switch it on). It’s been oddly freeing to run without the chirp of pace reminders every mile, obsessing about why I’m running at a different speed than usual, why my body feels different at it’s usual speed, feeling fast/strong… then being pinged that you’re actually running much slower than usual, etc.

    Also, on an oddly similar note, I just updated my mainstay shoes (Mizuno Wave Riders; have worn the same ones, in 6 months refreshes, for about 7 years) to Hokas, after some nagging injuries and a recommendation to try a lower drop shoe. Ran last week’s turkey trot in the new Hokas and can’t decide if I like them (the toe box may be too big for me/there were some early almost-blisters)… but it’s interesting to switch it up after so long!

    I’ll be cheers-ing some chilly morning miles to you from Cap Hill!

    1. Thank you, friend! Waving back at you from RCP!

      So interesting on Strava vs. Nike, and the things you gain and lose with each. I know what you mean about the hyper-competitive internal monologue. I highly suspect the freedom I experienced in that last run will be a sporadic high — I am also so determined to outperform myself, or at least perform consistently, that I know I can’t always run like that!


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