Running for Fun

I think it was Dean Karnazes who said in one of his books, “Running isn’t fun. It’s too hard to be fun.” He explains that it feels good, it’s refreshing, and the end result is worth the work; however, even for the most devoted runners, “fun” is never really associated with our sport.

As I was on my weekly long run yesterday, I began thinking about this notion of having fun while running. Sure, I often get “cravings” to be out running, and I always feel accomplished and content after I’ve finished a run.

But what about having fun while running?

As I brought this to the front of my mind, I decided that since I spend 2+ hours out of my Sunday running, maybe I should try to focus on the actual time itself instead of the before and after. I find that with running, we can get so consumed with all the things we do before (fueling, hydrating, getting enough sleep, proper attire, etc.) and after (re-fueling, stretching, relaxing) that sometimes the actual act of running itself gets lost. I believe wholly in preparing and debriefing a run properly, however I’m realizing that these specifics lose their significance if we don’t take time during our run to be present.

Kara Goucher, professional runner and all-around bad ass chick, has a fantastic quote that really resonates with me:

“Do the work. Do the analysis. But feel your run. Feel your race. Feel the joy that is running.”

I love this. Running, particularly competitive running, needs to be about numbers and analysis and scrutiny. However, in order for these specifics to be worthwhile and satisfying, we must recognize the momentary joys of running. Sometimes it’s as simple as listening to our own breath and dropping all other thoughts from our heads. I know personally I am prone to concentrating on tons of other things while on runs. My thoughts normally go something like this:

This pace feels fast…I wonder if I should slow down? I’ll see how long I can keep it up. But wait, I don’t want to get injured. Well, let’s see how I continue to feel. A fast run will warrant a good breakfast too. Hmm what should I have? And what should we make for dinner? I should probably go grocery shopping today. What all should go on the list…? Ah list! I have to finish yesterday’s to-do list. If I don’t send that check today it’s going to be late. Why’s that so hard for me to remember? I should be better about staying on top of things. There’s definitely parts of me that are Type A, but I don’t really want to totally be Type A. What do I normally say in interviews again about personality type?

Does this sound familiar?

Honestly, there’s nothing wrong necessarily with these types of mind distractions. Sometimes it’s helpful to concentrate on other thoughts, however I am starting to see this random back-and-forth way of thinking as a waste of a run. It sounds a bit cheesy and perhaps elitist, but I’ve realized that running provides a great opportunity for both mental clarity and serenity. Rarely do we get an opportunity away from our cars, tvs, computers, and smartphones where our only source of stimulation is our brains (and sometimes an iPod). We spend all day sorting through the busy thoughts that constantly fill up our brain space, so why should we let that clutter enter our running time?

I’m starting to think that if I’m able to push aside the heaviness of the daily grind while I’m running and focus on the present moment, the act and simplicity of running itself, then running just may become fun. I think it’s easy for us to simply say that running is our “me” time and our stress-reliever, however unless we consciously make an effort to relish, savor, and bask in our time spent running, we will not be able to fully appreciate the glories a run can hold.

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