People invariably ask me why I run, and though I anticipate this question, I have yet to find a simple and satisfying answer. (For some reason, non-runners don’t seem to understand when I say I run because I love running. I don’t get it. It makes perfect sense to me). Sometimes I run because it keeps me healthy. Sometimes I run because it keeps me sane. Sometimes I run because my training schedule tells me to do so. I run for myriad and assorted reasons. But do I run for fun? That’s a different question.
I recently had a conversation with a fellow runner about running for fun (correct me if I’m remembering this conversation wrong!). He is working on a program in which he only runs if the run feels amazing. If it’s feels hard or even remotely hurts, he is supposed to stop running. We are both trying to recover from injuries and I am a big believer in the mind-body connection, so it makes sense to me that if my head and heart don’t feel like running then my body shouldn’t be running. The difficulty of this concept is that runners are runners, and incredibly stubborn. Once I get out on a run, I have to finish my planned miles regardless of how terrible (or wonderful) I feel. He said the only way he manages to stop without completing the whole run is by having someone else tell him that he needs to stop. Accountability for the win!
To me, running for fun means running without all the distractions of pace, mileage, PRs, and surreptitiously but constantly comparing those stats with other runners. Running with no other purpose than to be out on a run. Recovering this perspective is important to me right now for two rather significant reasons: to avoid further injury and to accept less than PR performances at races. Forcing myself into this perspective, however, is like having a drill sergeant as a meditation instructor: “You! Will! Enjoy! This! Run!” The more I try to orient myself toward the “fun run” mindset, the more I create my own obstacles to adopting this perspective.
I’ve had some moments, though. Some miles, or minutes, or brief stretches that were easy, effortless, and quite enjoyable. And maybe it’ll happen a couple times during the same run. It happens frequently enough to keep me coming back. My next task is to get that feeling to stick around for all the miles instead of just some of the miles.