Have you ever run for the pure absolute joy of it?
I’m not talking about the workouts where you lace up your shoes, head out the door, turn on your GPS watch and decide this run is going to be a lot of fun. Or all of those themed 5k run runs that are so popular. Or even running some crazy awesome PR. I’m talking about the times when you find yourself running barefoot across a grass field because it just feels so good. So right. I’m talking about the times that you are running through the woods and taking in all the different sights and sounds. I’m talking about the times when you’re running around your backyard chasing after your son, daughter, niece, nephew, next door neighbor, dog, cat, sister, brother, I think you get my point, and having a great times! The times you forget everything you’ve ever known about running; gear, fueling, pace, mileage, all that stuff that we as runners are thinking about on a regular basis, and are just doing it for the childlike freedom that running can bring.
I think sometimes it can be easy to forget that running can be more than just training for a race, or a way to stay fit, or some kind of deranged torture that our high school gym teachers and coaches liked to bestow upon us (did anyone else absolutely dread hearing the phrase “We’re running the mile today.”? Because I swear that was the absolute worst thing I could ever hear during gym class.), and that running can just be fun.
It’s really easy to get caught up in training plans and mile splits and PRs and getting a specific workout done, and to forget that running is more than just a chore to get done, or a race to train for. It’s stress relief. It’s alone time, or maybe even a time to socialize. It’s a way to connect with nature. It’s a way to explore. It’s a way to learn and think and dream.
The late DR. George Sheehan said that running and sport in general should our playtime. If you’ve never read his book Running & Being, I highly recommend it! In it he talks about running and why we should see it as a chance to play. I definitely think it can change the way some people thing about running and sports in general.
“Exercise that is work is worthless. But exercise that is play will give you health and long life.” – Dr. George Sheehan
Now I’m not saying we should throw out our GPS watches, burn our training plans, and completely forget about any running related goals that we have. I’m just saying every once in a while we should sprint across a field in our bare feet for no reason other than the because it’s fun. Or leave the GPS watch at home and watch the scenery instead of mile splits. Or maybe just switch up your training plan every once in a while, because sometimes the thought of a hard interval session, or a track workout, or whatever, sounds like absolute hell and you absolutely do not want to do it and the thought of even attempting said workout makes you never want to run again. I think those are the days it’s best to forget about those workouts or training and just run for fun. Do a fun fartlek session instead (bonus points if you say the word fartlek to yourself over and over again in different funny voices and giggle at yourself the whole time 😉 ), hit the trails, or just do an easy loop around your neighborhood. Go out and run for fun, not because you “have to”.
There is this hill in my neighborhood that I call “the big hill”. I have a love-hate relationship with this hill. It’s actually not the biggest hill in my neighborhood, but it’s where I tend to do most of my hill workouts. Those are usually the days I hate this hill. But sometimes in the middle of a run, I like to run up this hill then sprint right back down with reckless abandon. I forget about my form and pace and whatever workout I was actually supposed to do, and just let my legs and gravity carry me down this hill however they want to. Those are the days I love this hill. Is this good for my quads? Probably not. Am I going to get hurt doing this? Yeah, I have a feeling eventually my feet are going to get tangled up with each other, or I’m going to misstep and end up falling. But I can’t help myself because it’s just so darn fun!
This morning while walking Finn I found myself at the top of that hill. I wasn’t wearing a single piece of running gear (well, aside from a retired pair of running shoes, but those don’t count 😉 ), and according to my training plan I wasn’t suppose to run today. But I had to run down that hill. So I did. Once I got Finn going we absolutely tore down that hill! I have no idea how fast we ran or how far we went, but none of that matters because it was just so much fun! And after we got to the bottom we spent the rest of our “walk” alternating between bouts of sprinting, jogging, and walking until we got back home and it was great.
We both had an absolute blast and it was a great reminder of why running works so well for me and why I’ve stuck with it for so long (if you can really count 4 years as “long”). I’ve been continuously trying out new exercises and workout plans since about 2013, but I always end up dreading the workouts or getting bored and quitting. But I’ve never gotten tired of running.
I may bitch and complain about it sometimes (or maybe all of the time 😉 ). But most of the time it’s still fun for me. I run for the absolute joy of it. I run because it makes me feel hopeful, and free, and like maybe my problems in life really aren’t as big as they seem. Running is my playtime and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.