Running For The Fun of It

We don’t always have to get a PR


I have been running for several years, and what began as a striving to finish races, switched to a feeling that I must always run faster, and get personal bests each time out. Early on, when I only had run a few races, this was something possible to accomplish. However, at some point personal bests become elusive. At some point, if every run becomes a chase of a personal best, then you will fail, and you are vulnerable to feelings of disappointment, and running may become unfulfilling. If this persists, you may end up as a part of a large group of people that simply get burned out, and stop running, If you are approaching this burnout and change of mindset is necessary.

Nothing Wrong With Striving for Your Best

We all come to running for different reasons, whether to lose weight, get more physically active, to push ourselves to do hard things, or maybe we have always just loved running. When we push our bodies to the limits we find that we are stronger, faster, and better than we thought. This is why we set goals to hit that next personal best, and this type of thinking is important to our continued growth as an athlete. However, our bodies, just like our cars cannot be constantly pushed into the red, or else we will either blow out our engines, aka injury, or when our performance drops we will face the dreaded burnout.

Something Is Wrong

A couple years back, I began my pursuit of a marathon PR at the Long Beach Marathon. It was a relatively flat course, and I thought this was my chance to get it. I embarked upon a training program that had me running 6 days a week, and a mix of track style speed work and tempo running, mixed with easy and long runs. However, I was not satisfied with the pace of my easy runs and kicked up my pace just a wee bit. This wee bit over the first half of my training had accumulated and I began getting pain in my achilles tendon. When this happens, your body is screaming at you to stop! My wheels were about to fall off, and I was sidelined for 2-3 weeks, getting treatment, and learning all about the problems that arise out of a diagnosis of Achilles tendonitis.

I had run my body ragged for too long and ended up with an injury. An injured runner is not a happy runner. I limped to the finish of the training cycle and was able to complete the marathon, but was not pleased with my time, nor do I think I really learned anything from my experience, because I essentially repeated the process during my next marathon training cycle, but that time I was sidelined for nearly a month, and did even worse at that marathon.

To add insult to this injury, I was really getting burned out, because this cycle of training, injury, and not achieving the desired results, I was getting mentally fatigued, and running was beginning to feel like a chore. I needed something to shake up my routine that had ceased to generate the results that I desired, but rather was taking me backwards and further away from their desired results.

In Good Company

While many of us have encountered a similar experience, even the best runners often experience this same fatigue and burnout. This year’s Boston Marathon Champion Des Linden was beginning to get burned out, because year after year she just wasn’t achieving the level of success she had hoped. Even though she had reached the podium several times at many major marathons, she had never made that final step to the top. In 2017, she had to ask herself the question about whether she wanted to continue in the sport that been her life, at this critical juncture, she decided to take a break, a five-month long break from training.

The summer before her Boston victory was spent having fun, enjoying the outdoors, spending time with loved ones, reading, and doing a number of things that were not running related. After this break, she felt renewed, invigorated, and ready to take on the competition again.

Reclaiming Joy

I can’t say I took five months off from running to reclaim my joy, but I did need to shake up the routine, I had to change my mindset from the run run run routine. My pace could no longer be the shackle around my leg, so an outlet was necessary that could break that concern, and in the process I fell in love with the trails. Depending on the trail, my pace was going to be much slower, and I may need to hike long stretches, therefore I would no longer be a slave to the constant desire of a faster pace on these runs. Additionally, the scenery and wildlife is much nicer to be around than simply running around the streets.

Around the same time, I also was introduced to Obstacle Course Racing. If simply running the trail couldn’t break me of the pace enslavement, then tossing in 20-30 obstacles will do the trick. There is something exhilarating about running and then having to jump over a wall, drag a sled, crawl under barbed wire, and jumping into a muddy pit. Some of these obstacles may humble you, but they also remind you that you are alive, and by conquering these obstacles you can become more than you were before you began the race.

These two newer endeavors to me, became a reminder that running is supposed to be fun. In the process of having fun, it doesn’t mean you aren’t pushing yourself to be better, but it reminds you that better doesn’t always mean you are achieving that personal best time. We are supposed to have fun out there, and whether you are running your first 5K or running your 100th marathon, it is an activity we need to embrace the joy that it can bring.

As for me I will be out there on November 4th looking to get a PR in the marathon, but I know that I must have fun working toward that goal. During this training cycle, I have run many trails, and competed in a few obstacle course races, and they keep my feet moving, and my spirits high, because life is too short to take our recreational activities too seriously.

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