Running For Fun (When You Can’t Run For Time)

When I first started participating in running events, I believed in a year or so I’d be able to run a half marathon in under 2 hour 30 minutes. I believed it so much that my New Year’s Run bib for 2015 said “Complete a Half in 2:30”. With my first race being Tinker Bell 2013, it seemed perfectly reasonable that I accomplish this goal by the end of 2015. What I learned is that it may not ever be possible for me to accomplish this goal, and that’s OK. I’ve had a series of injuries and setbacks that have led to the unfortunate realization that continuing to go out there and finish might have to be enough for me, and I can set a different kind of personal record.

My new personal goal for every race is to have more fun than the last time. I rank myself on a few different criteria and am happy to share my personal measures on my new race goals. If you’re stuck in the back of the pack, and feeling a little defeated, here are a few strategies to turn around your mindset and get back to the business of enjoyment. You should always do your best, and train your hardest, but there’s more to running a race than just “getting a good time”.

  1. Wear a fun outfit.
    • In 2015, I wanted to earn 27 medals dressed as Disney characters. Planning and executing a fun costume is often more enjoyable to me than the actual running part. My favorite race was Zooma Napa Valley 2014, my first non-Disney race, and I ran as Snow White. Hearing people cheer for the character I was dressed as and being told how happy it made other runners helped me get over my nervousness at wearing a costume to a “non-costume” race. Wear a bright color, give yourself a personal theme, pull out the running shirt you love but are slightly embarrassed to wear. If it makes you happy, it will make others happy, so let loose and be you.
  2. Cheer from the back.
    • Out and back courses let you see the winners before they’ve even won. I love cheering the fastest runners as they pass, and then those behind me after I turn around. At the Independence Day Classic 10K, I was 7 people away from being last. I clapped and cheered for each of those 7 people and each of the 233 people in front. Running might be a “solo” sport, but I’m not doing it alone. I support each runner out there because it’s a lot less fun to be alone.
  3. Dance a little when you run.
    • We have all carefully cured our playlists for our most uplifting, on tempo, get down to business music. Yet we all have that one song (some of us a whole playlist) that makes us want to get down and groove. Usually when running we try to resist this urge: don’t. Wiggle your bottom, raise the roof, and get silly. 3 miles, 13 miles, 26 miles, they’re getting done whether you dance or not. I say just dance.
  4. High Five a stranger
    • When I first started running, I’d find a police employee to high five every race. Its a little Kimmy Schmidt, but volunteers and officers alike are always happy to share a high five. The smile on their face is an extra boost, because who doesn’t love high fives (besides Titus)?
  5. Finish like it’s a red carpet
    • Most races have a finish line chute. No matter how you are feeling up until then, this chute is nearly always filled with people cheering, music and the excited energy of completion and accomplishment. This is your time to shine and strut your stuff. Leap (safely) across the finish line, throw your hands in the air, high five your neighbor and own it. Every finish line crossed is a celebration, and this experience is usually when you think, “I’m going to sign up for another one!”

So just do it. 

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