Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Running Free

How do you feel about running when you aren't training for anything?

After being on a training plan for 2 marathons in 6 months--that means I've been running on a structured plan for almost a year--I won't lie. I feel a little lost. With a training plan, I have a schedule to follow. There's speedwork, marathon paced runs, and long slow distance runs. Of course, with my Big Sur training, there was that point where I wasn't doing a lot of running due to injury. But I still had workouts to complete--pool running and cycling--to help me meet my goals. Now that Big Sur is history, the dust has settled. I've recovered fully and I'm back on the road again. But with no training plan in place, I feel a little aimless. 

No time goals? No paces to hit? No distances to cover? Nothing to train for?

Why run at all? What's my motivation?

Because sometimes it feels good to just run free.


Back in the day, when I was just running for fitness and mental health, I didn't train for anything. Sure, I ran a few 5ks and 10ks, but mostly I ran for me. My favorite distance to run back then, and it still is, was 6 miles. I mostly ran 4-5 days/week, but I didn't do speedwork or anything like that. I still remember the day that I ran 7 miles. Pushing my mileage limits, I was out of my comfort zone for sure. I felt exhilarated and scared at the same time. All of a sudden, I had this realization that the sky was really the limit for me. Kind of like when Becky had me swinging on those rings this week. 

I liked those runs because I felt free. I've never been very good at managing stress or pressure in my life and those runs were the one time where I could just go and do my thing. Alone. Just me and my thoughts. Can you imagine what it was like for me to give those runs up when I started training for half marathons and then fulls?

Luckily when she's devised my training plans, Becky has been really good about leaving me at least one or two "free" runs per week that I could do at any pace I wanted. She knew I needed them and she was right. Those were my favorite runs, my free runs, where I could lose myself in my music and just go. Sure, I wear my Garmin on all my runs to track my distance, but when I'm running free, I don't pay much attention to my pace.

Lately, I've seen more and more postings on social media about "running free". For some runners, running free means free of all electronic gadgets. No Garmin, no heart rate monitor, no music. For others, it means running without a goal in mind. Just lacing up the shoes and heading out the door.

Who doesn't love the idea of doing that?

Don't get me wrong, I do set out on a run with a mileage goal in mind. It's kind of a loose goal, though. If a run is going well, I might go farther. And if I'm struggling, I might cut it short. But the whole point of running free is to go with the flow, so to speak. To not worry about pace. To enjoy the run. To "take the long way home".

So now you know where I got the name for my blog.

As I write this, just the idea of running free makes me want to go for a run. I look forward to putting on my shoes and my music and heading out the door. Running free takes me back to the beginning, to why I started running in the first place.

What does running free mean to you? Do you like to run free? Or do you always have a structured plan in place? 

I'm linking up with DebRuns for Wednesday Word, which is freedom. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone else's take on this word!











I'm also linking up with Coaches Corner: Susie, Debbie, Rachael, and Lora host this one!












And with Wild Workout Wednesday! Annmarie, Nicole, and Michelle host the party!

94 comments :

  1. Just reading this makes me smile because running free to me makes me think childhood. Freeze tag. Running running running. Thoughts to mileage for hills or speed work or anything.

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    1. Yes! It feels really good to get back to that.

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  2. I'm at the place right now. My next "big" race isn't till November so I feel a little in "limbo" right now!

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    1. It's a little bit unsettling, isn't it?

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  3. Running free for me means two things - running without a training plan and also running without music.

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    1. I like to run with music because I can just let go!

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  4. I've been running free for awhile now and it's changed my views on running. I love it.

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  5. I love running free! When I am not training for something (which is a lot of the time) I always run free. To me, it means running whatever distance/pace I feel like. After my marathon in the beginning of Sept I will be running free for a couple months! I am *hoping* to qualify for Boston so if I do, I think it would be good to run free up until whenever I have to start training for that.

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    1. I'd love to qualify for Boston but man, it feels good to just run right now.

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  6. I needed this inspiration. I always have a training plan. Every weekend I write out my workouts for the coming week. There always seems to be a half marathon every few months to be working towards. But currently I find myself a little burnt out, but the thought of not writing out my plan or just going for a run without a time or distance goal seems a bit scary! But my race times keep getting slower, so I think my body is saying enough is enough. Let's get back to the joy of running.

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    1. That's where I'm at right now. Just running for the love of running.

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  7. Ugh. I think I am more of a structured person but I appreciate the runs that are "free" more than the ones that I "have to" get done!

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    1. Even though I'm running "free", I'm still sticking to a loose plan of running 4 days per week...

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  8. When I used to run without a plan, it usually meant I wasn't consistent, so I appreciate having a goal race and plan in mind--I really need that. But I love having the freedom to run some days at whatever pace and not think about what I'm not hitting or time I'm achieving.

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    1. That's exactly what I'm doing right now and I'm loving it.

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  9. Like you, I seem to work well with a schedule magneted to my refrigerator, one on which I can cross off each days assignment. It is satisfying.

    As you know, I've been struggling mightily since completing my one-and-done half marathon last November. I've been working hard to rebuild the strength I had, but aging is beginning to rear its---I won't say ugly, I like my age---head. Halfway to sixty-four, my Beatles year, I find I must rethink my running life. No more schedule, just running for fun and fitness.

    I experienced the exact same emotion as you as I pushed passed six miles a couple of years ago. That day, I planned on 5K to honor two friends who were running in Philadelphia, one a marathon, the other a half. I felt so good that cool, overcast Sunday morning that I did 6.2. At that moment, I decided to run another .8 miles to honor another friend, a multiple marathoner, who was down with an injury. It was liberating, exciting. When I was done, I considered ten miles for the next year. All because of that running free.

    Thanks for this post. A lost of wonderful memories, and some plans for joyful running days in the future, are filling my head right now.

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    1. I'm dreading those days of the inevitable slow down. But no matter what, we'll still be able to run, even if it's slower than we'd like.

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  10. When not training for a specific race I usually will still have a schedule with the number of days I plan to run and approximate mileage but it's the pace that doesn't matter. Some days I'll start off thinking it will be just an easy run and if I feel really good it suddenly becomes a tempo run as I try to beat a previous minute/mile best. Or some days if I feel bad I cut the miles short and switch to something else like the elliptical so I still get in some cardio but I have a better attitude. I actually always miss the flexibility when I start training but I need the training to keep me pushing towards new goals. Darned if we do, darned if we don't. :)

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    1. I kind of like that flexibility thing of running free!

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  11. I'm approaching my first scheduled-out training program (for my first marathon, I think I need it) and I'm DREADING it! I love being able to just run without worrying about missing an "important" session.

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    1. It's nice to have a plan, tho, because you don't have to think! You just do what you're told!

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  12. Thank you for linking up! I'm running free in that I'm not training for anything, but I have to be careful not to run too free or I might overdo it. Also, I don't know the mile markers up by work yet, lol. But I'm running with no pressure, so running free even with things helping me keep track (a little).

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    1. I guess I never run completely free since I usually set out with a distance in mind when I go...

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  13. Ha! Reading this makes me want to go for a run too! I seem to spend a lot of time in the "train free" zone lately. Once I do my half marathon next week I'll be back there again. I'm looking forward to it. Thanks for linking up!

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    1. I'm always "half marathon ready" so is that really free?

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  14. I like the time when you realized that "the sky's the limit" with your running - that's exactly how I feel now! A fast mile race? Sure why not. A random super-high mileage week just because? Bring it on! Yep, I'm also running free right now and loving it.

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    1. And that's why I just signed up for a 10k on Sunday. Because I can!

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  15. Sometimes, I really need a goal to stay motivated, but I've done a few runs where I just got out there with no plan and really enjoyed it! When a run is just a run to destress and take in nature - those runs are amazing.

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    1. That's really what we run for, isn't it?

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  16. What does running free mean to me? These days, it seems to mean free from injury. That's a beautiful run!

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    1. Well, there is that! I'm so glad you are feeling better!

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  17. I'm running free right now and I really enjoy it, although some days it takes me a minute to realize "hey, it's pouring down rain but you don't HAVE to get that run in, relax" - ahhh.

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    1. I'm still getting there! I still feel guilty when I miss a run.

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  18. As I mentioned in my own post, my most free runs are the ones right after my big race, before I start a new training cycle. It's during those runs when there are no paces to hit, and I feel that I can run free just like a little kid!

    Thanks for linking up!

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  19. I've run enough half marathons that this past fall and spring I just wung it. I had a loose idea of what I wanted to do, about how much mileage I should do, how often to run hard etc. but there was no pressure of do x on x day and it was glorious. To me that is running free. Free of pressure and schedule. Also learning to train on effort vs pace was very freeing. Garmin really only comes out for races these days. I use mapmyrun some runs but it is hilariously inaccurate so I take pace on there with a grain of salt!

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    1. I used to always run on effort and when I got serious about my distances, I started working on pace. Now I'm going back to running on effort and it feels good.

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  20. We must be on the same wavelength because I am allllllllll about running free. :)

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  21. Yes! You are inspiring me to go for a run right now! I can def relate to being done with marathons for awhile and feeling a bit lost with no specific training plan...but I also kind of love it as well!

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  22. You know it's funny...I am HUGE on structure. Not following a plan really has me lost in the sauce! I love running of course, and I love the way it makes me feel free...but sometimes I need an external force to get me out the door! I do enjoy running the trails without any goal or purpose in mind...that's when I really feel free!

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    1. I'm pretty good at motivating myself to get out the door, especially when I get to run for fun!

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  23. This is such a great topic! I love the concept of running free! To me it's less about structure, and more about your mindset. I feel like I am "running free" even during marathon training and structured workouts. I don't force paces on myself, I run by feel and I find that the fitness finds it way to me. I think you can run free with our without a training plan, it's just a matter of the pressure you put on yourself when you are doing it!

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    1. I do try harder to hit certain paces when I'm training, and that's why right now just running feels all the sweeter!

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  24. I like this idea of "running free"! I usually structure my runs into hard or easy runs, but I think even the easy runs come with some level of pressure (to recover and not overdo it). I need to start incorporating this mindset into my running!

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    1. Since this is how I started running, it feels good to get back to the "basics".

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  25. I often feel lost right after a big race that I have trained for. I do like having some sort of plan or schedule but it is fun to run free sometimes and just chit chat with friends along the way.

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    1. Now that is something I need to work on! I've never run with people. I enjoyed running Big Sur with Kristina so much that I realized I was missing out on something!

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  26. I call it "tootle" running. I tootle there, tootle there.....literally run errands (drop off mail, pick up bananas on way back, etc.). Chat comfortably with runner friends, just do to do. It's wonderful. Just running to run. No thinking, just doing. I seriously love running. hahaa...don't we ALL!

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    1. I like that tootle running! Tootle-loo!

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  27. I'm a huge advocate for "free" running...without a plan (once in awhile) and especially without a watch dictating all the stats. Of course, I enjoy going over the pace splits as much as the next runner (when I"m done), but for me it takes all the freedom out of it to be a slave to a gadget on my wrist while "in motion." But, alas, I know some people thrive on that kind of security. It's a beautiful thing that we all have the option of dong it "our" way ;-)

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    1. Isn't that really the best thing about running? The freedom to run the way we want?

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  28. I do like to run free. I like having a plan & goals to chase, but I also enjoy my off seasons -- I'm in a little mini one right now -- where I just go & Spode what I feel like. It reminds you of why you started to run in the first place!

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  29. Yeah I like to run free and I'm good at not wearing or not looking at my Garmin. I've been "free" since Twin Cities. Even my training plans are pretty "free" these days. It's kind of ingrained at this point. I just go.

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    1. When I was writing this post, I was thinking about that--how it's just ingrained. That's probably why I don't have to train for races very much anymore. It's a really good feeling.

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  30. Ah, yes. the days of running free. Takes me back to Boston when I was just getting in the groove of running and would hit 3-4 miles daily. It wasn't fast, it wasn't timed just me and the river. I enjoyed those moments and definitely need to get some of that back. Racing, training, blogging and Garmin have definitely added an element of structure I've never had before. Great post!

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    1. I'm trying to get that feeling back as well! It's been really fun and I'm glad I don't have anything to train for this fall.

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  31. Awesome post! I almost always run free simply because I enjoy it. Having a goal or a race is added motivation but sometimes I just like to run because.

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    1. Sometimes training feels like a job and running free reminds us of why we started running in the first place!

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  32. Running free definitely means no distance or pace goal... no plan.... I've pretty much been doing that since the LA marathon, but am now looking forward to getting back into a structured plan to prepare for New York.... Anytime I'm on vacation I also feel like I'm running free... because it is a new route and I don't have any expectations for it.... traveling to Spain for the next 10 days and looking forward to running free there for sure!

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    1. I can't wait to see your pictures. Running free on vacation is a whole other thing!

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  33. I often find it difficult to just run for the sake of running. I know that its good for me since its exercise, but since I'm often in training for something its difficult to break free from that mindset of always being "in training."

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    1. I'm good both ways but with all that is going on in my life, it feels good to "just run".

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  34. Some of my MRTT friends call those miles "joy miles", miles you run just for the love of it. I usually set a time or distance minimum for my free runs, but don't worry about pacing or if there is walking involved. This week is all free runs for me and then it's time to figure out when I need to start training for my next big races...

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    1. I love that! But you aren't taking any time off?

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  35. Running free also means just running for the fun of it. It doesn't happen very often because I also have a race on the agenda and it's not far from my mind. It also means not running with my Garmin, iPhone or my iPod, which rarely ever happens. I always feel a little lost when I don't have one of the three. It's a little sad, isn't it?

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    1. I always run with my phone because, safety. And the camera. But I do like to listen to music and just go.

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  36. I don't think I spend enough time running free! I feel like I am always training for something, to the point where it becomes burdensome. I really welcome the times where I'm not trying to adhere to some mileage buildup schedule or regimented speed/hill workouts. It reminds me that running is indeed something we do for enjoyment. What I should try doing sometime is running with my Garmin so I'm not always checking my pace, splits, mileage, etc. - but that is a tough one for me!

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    1. I always wear my Garmin to track my mileage. I won't lie, I'm interested in my pace, even when I'm running for fun. But I'm not trying to hit any paces. It's fun to see what my legs will do.

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  37. I love running "naked" haha But I'm also totally obsessive over my stats!

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  38. For me, running free means being healthy and happy enough to actually run. When I get depressed I stay inside, so if I'm feeling good, I'm outside. :)
    I can't even imagine not having some kind of structure. I live for a schedule!

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    1. I do have a running schedule, even when I'm not training for anything but it's certainly more flexible!

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  39. I love running outside early in the morning. It really starts my day on the right note.

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  40. Awesome post! Running free does feel great. I love my training plan but there are runs thrown in that just says run 4 miles. Those are my free miles to run anyway I want- Coach M is a good balance for me!

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    1. She's a good coach! That's what Becky does too. Great minds think alike.

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  41. I love the structure of a training plan but I've grown to cherish the running free miles. I think it's the yogi in me that taught me to appreciate it because that was never the case for pre-yoga me. A few years ago I felt like I always needed a plan.

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    1. I've gone back and forth, depending on what I'm training for or not...

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  42. I love this post! I love to run free, like you I don't manage stress well and running is the only activity that gives me true relief! I love to free without the need to train.

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  43. Love this! I do like to run without goals, sometimes, but I usually need something hovering in the background to keep me going. I may have a race I want to do where I am more concerned about the finish than the performance, but having the knowledge that it is there is my carrot to keep going.

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    1. Having goals and races is important, but I think it's just as important to run for fun!

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  44. I use to always run free in the since of no pace to hit or run objective. I did always decide how many miles I'd do but that's it. I've just recently started adding in paces to hit or intervals more. I do like this it changes things up even if your running the same places.
    Running is my outlet too, my time to work things out. I think in the beginning I needed this more than runs to be faster.

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    1. I won't lie, I wear my Garmin to track my miles and my pace. I don't have any pace goals right now, but I like to know where I'm at.

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  45. I do love running free. Last year when I was starting to run again after I hurt my back I ran a lot without my watch and grew to find the love on the run again!

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  46. After reading this I'm ready to go out for a short run, despite having run nearly 16 tough, mountain-y, humid miles already today! Running free is definitely a great way to keep running fun and keep your love for running alive. When you think about it, all of us pretty much ran as kids and we were definitely running free back then. It's important to keep that same spirit interwoven with the structured running many of us do now.

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    1. I think that training for a race sometimes takes the fun out of running. That's why it's important to have those free runs, to remind us why we do this crazy thing!

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  47. I'm not a runner at the moment but I find the tips you shared in this post can also apply to everyday life. We can decide to run free after pursuing a goal in a structured manner for a while. This frees up the mind to see other ways of achieving a goal without the pressure of a plan. I understand the need for plans but just doing stuff without a care in the world can be liberating to the mind.

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    1. It's hard to shift gears tho, from running on a plan to just running free! Especially for those of us who lean towards the compulsive...

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