I think of myself as a runner. Always have, since I first started “jogging” in 1975. Running is a key part of my lifestyle and sense of well-being. I say “I went for a run this morning.” I keep a running log which details how far and where I run, how I felt. I look forward to the next day’s run.

In the eighties there was much debate about definitions for “runner” vs “jogger.” The latter moved at a pace slower than eight minutes per mile, or so said Bill Rodgers.

Arbitrary. Yet under that definition, I qualified as a runner.

But if I’m honest, now that I’m in my sixties, I’m no longer a runner, especially on trails. I’m not running that fast. Instead, I’m sauntering.

John Muir meme

Thank you, John Muir, for pointing that out to me.

Because I love sauntering. The mountain trails I play on with my dogs are my holy land, my sanctuary, and my spiritual guide, along with nature. I prefer moving at the pace the trail dictates, absorbing the sights, sounds, smells and wildlife along the way, taking photos of scenes that catch my eye.

I quit looking at my watch during my runs long ago. I quit calculating minutes per mile, or worrying about total time spent covering a particular distance.

Who cares? Not me, not any more, although I once did.

dog rolling on snow
Finn, a dog who knows the meaning of sauntering.

Talk about feeling freed from self-imposed chains!

I hate to think how much I would miss seeing were I focused solely on speed and pace.

dog, forest
Sauntering means paying attention to what my dogs observe, stopping to investigate when they see or hear something I don’t. This day, Conall alerted me to something worth observing, at least in his opinion.
dog, forest
Turns out it was a small group of cattle grazing far below.
Later that same run – or, saunter – a blue jay was displaying some amazing tree climbing skills as it watched us pass below its perch in the trees.

Give sauntering a try, wherever you go. Muir on was on to something…

Featured image: who knew a dandelion could be so gorgeous when gone to seed in the forest?

14 thoughts on “Sauntering”

  1. Great quote. Thank you John Muir for the education. I just looked up the definition of saunter. It seems I didn’t know what it meant. I would have said “To move with self-assurance.” I, too, saunter. Three years ago, I “ran” (although not quite a sub eight–I was running some big mileage). Then I blew out in the middle of a marathon – I just completely fell apart, and I limped in the final eight miles. I never got my speed back. I put my watch away. I planned distances on the fly based on how I felt, and I generally told my wife “I’ll be gone for around two hours.” Sometimes I miss the speed, but you’re right, it is freeing to not be a slave to pace. Running has become far more meditative. I’m a better person.

    I published a book of running essays. The first half of the book chronicled my “pace” phase, the second half was written during my saunter phase. A guy emailed me after reading the first half of the book telling me that I was insufferable. He didn’t think he could finish the book because of my obsession with pace and my attitude in defining who is a runner (I was like Bill Rodgers). I told him to stick it out, the book was going to change. He did and he agreed that my attitude changed 100%. He still gave me a crappy review, but he also helped me see more clearly how I’ve changed in just a few years. I’m a little embarrassed about who I used to be.

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  2. This post hits me in the feels. John Muir was definitely on to something. He often was and his most popular quote “The mountains are calling and I must go (which is a sign hanging on my wall) used to make me go quite often. Now, due to health problems, I can’t answer the call the way I used to. One day I hope to be able to answer it again and often. I’ve got some great memories to think about for now and some of them I wrote about. If you are interested, check out my blog and click the outdoor stories category.

    BTW, I have a dog named Finn too! He’s a golden retriever, as is his brother Sawyer.


    1. Those are some amazing stories! I felt like I was right there with you, through the good and the bad. Makes me think about the possibility of a shared thread of blog posts…”What was your most memorable near-disaster experience on a trail?” I’ve got a story involving the Grand Canyon I might share. As for your Finn, is his full name Finn MacCool? That’s my boy’s name, chosen based on my love for Celtic mythology (and some Irish heritage). Later on, it was pointed out to me that there are pubs across the US named Finn MacCool. I had no idea!

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      1. Thank you and that’s a great idea! I would love to read about your Grand Canyon story. My Finn’s full kennel name is Finn McGee Pour Me a Cool One. Close to MacCool and definitely bar themed! Actually his older brother is named Sawyer and we named him Finn because we were inspired by Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.


      2. Ha! Great dog name! Alright, time to think about how to create a theme (trail mishaps) that others can jump in on. Thoughts? Create a prompt? Link to the stories of others? I’m still new to this WordPress blogging universe so not sure of the best approach…


      3. I’ve been blogging for several years but not the most savvy when it comes to things like shared posts. I’ll have to do some research. I’ve been so busy at work this week I haven’t even hardly read any of my favorite blogs.


  3. I was a runner, too. I loved running trails; it felt like flight. But in 2004 my left hip went south and I wasn’t able to run any more, not even after the hip resurfacing that was supposed to enable me to keep running. I believe it was because it took nearly 3 years to get a correct diagnosis (“You’re too young!”) and then find a surgeon who could the procedure I wanted/needed. Then, 2017, my right hip went south. Bear and Dusty (RIP) walked anyway, ever more slowly. Fortunately, Dusty was old and Bear is a livestock guardian dog so none of us were in a hurry. I discovered a different nature when I walked 1 mph rather than 4 or ran 6+ depending on the terrain. It was a huge and necessary lesson for me to learn I could slow down.

    My heart echoes Thoreau, “I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least—and it is commonly more than that—sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements. You may safely say, A penny for your thoughts, or a thousand pounds. When sometimes I am reminded that the mechanics and shopkeepers stay in their shops not only all the forenoon, but all the afternoon too, sitting with crossed legs, so many of them—as if the legs were made to sit upon, and not to stand or walk upon—I think that they deserve some credit for not having all committed suicide long ago.” Thoreau, “Walking”

    I stayed in teaching because it did not take all my day and I still had — for most of the years — enough money to live. So now, it’s all good though I know there are things I wish I could do and cannot do. I console myself by reminding myself I DID do them, I HAVE done them and now I do THIS. ❤ I love this post.


    1. I LOVE the Thoreau quote; haven’t seen that before, so thank you for including it! It perfectly captures my approach to life, my preference to live at or near poverty level with time to be in the forest with my dogs vs working more to acquire…? I’m sorry your hips gave out on you, but glad you turned those lemons into your own lemonade, at your own pace, and are finding success in all you do – including writing.


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