Friday, 22 April 2016

Five secrets to running happy

There was a time in my life when I hated running.  I was in Grade 11 and our entire family, great-grandma, grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins included, spent a December holiday in Henties Bay, Namibia.  My dad was in the shape of his life: Fit, strong and up for a 05:00 a.m. run on most days.  I, on the other hand, was a mess.  I was suffering the consequences of my choices making my boarding school debut at the ripe age of 17 - and dealing with the adjustment through emotional eating.  It wasn't pretty.  That didn't stop me, however, from chiming in when the cousins made the call to join my dad on one of his 05:00 a.m. jaunts...  And, you've guessed it: Getting up at 05:00 a.m. was where the fun (?) ended.  My dad, double the age of most of us, literally ran circles around us - I remember huffing like a steam train and detesting every minute. 

Fun(ner) times with my dad.

How then can it be that now, twenty-odd years later, running is my happy place?  What has changed?  I'll let you in on a few secrets:

1.  Only compete against yourself

That run in Henties would have been so much more pleasant had I gone at my own pace.  But no, we all tried to catch my dad like huffing, headless chickens (speaking only for myself here...  Perhaps the other cousins had fun...?).  I'm not quite sure how we anticipated the outcome to be anything but torture?

Sure, for a chosen few awesome professionals beating other athletes is a job.  But, for the rest of us, our biggest opponents remain ourselves.      

2.  Find your happy distance

... and forget about everyone else.  South Africans tend to have a Comrades mentality: Haven't done it yet?  Ag, shame, you must be a fun runner then.  Nonsense.  If 5 kays, 10 kays or half-marathons fuel your passion - do them.  And enjoy them.  If marathons and ultras make you smile - awesome.  The trick is to find your happy distance and then obliterate it.        

3.  Keep going

In three decades of on-and-off running, I've never heard anyone say "hey, that first run was awesome!".  Not once.  First runs suck.  For everyone.  As do second and third ones.  The secret is to keep going - because reaching that point where torture turns to joy is a sweet, sweet thing.      

4.  Select your surface 

Tar sucks the life right out of me.  Sure, if it's the only practical surface available for a run, it's ten times better than no run.  But put me on a gravel road and I flourish; just thinking about it makes me smile.  Point is: Experimenting with different running surfaces and finding my favourite one has taken my running enjoyment to a whole new level.


Happiness!  [Photo by Corne Pretorius.]

Find yours. 

5.    Do your thing

Perhaps the most important lesson is this: Stop chasing the guy in the blue trunks/your buddy's parkrun PB/your clubmate's Comrades dream.  Do your thing.  Because that, for me, is where true running happiness lies. 
  

Thanks to the ladies from Eat Pray Run DCYou Signed up for What? and Mar on the Run for the opportunity to share these points as part of their Friday Five link-up!

Have a terrific weekend, everyone!


22 comments:

  1. This is awesome. Do your own thing is the biggest thing and not worrying about other people. I like to do trails at least once a week and just not worry about time, so nice just to be out with my dog.

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    1. I can literally SEE the enjoyment when I see pics of you and Cola running - love it!

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  2. Oh so glad that your thought of running has turned around!

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  3. Totally yes to finding your distance. I LOVE the half marathon. I loathe the long runs required by the marathon. Yet somehow I do still get sucked into the marathon, sigh.

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    1. Same here! Half-marathons and 5 kays make my heart go vroom - LOVE them!

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  4. i love your first tip - Only compete against yourself. I think it's so easy to compare ourselves to other runners, especially on social media. We have to remember that everyone is unique and has their own story/goals.

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    1. Amen to that - so much of the joy of running is lost in trying to match someone else's pace/feeling that you have to go further and further as that's the next "logical" step... We should do what we love!

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  5. Love this. Totally true -- first, second, third runs always suck! It's usually a year or two later when you hit the sweet spot. :)

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    1. If only everyone would stick around that long, hey Rachel? Imagine all the happiness!

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  6. These are great tips! I am lucky that even though I am pretty competitive, most of the time it is just against myself. And as much as I like pushing myself, I also just like to run for FUN. :)

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    1. Thanks, Megan!

      Jip, I'm also pretty competitive. Annoyingly so. But the older I get, the more I'm discovering a love for running simply for the joy of it - and I like it!

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  7. This is great advice!! I was very glad to find out that the first miles are always the sucky ones! Thanks for sharing this!

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    1. My pleasure, Ana - thanks so much for stopping by!

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  8. I think only competing against yourself is SO important. Great tips!

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    1. Thanks, Courtney! Wish I discovered it a bit sooner... But really enjoying being my own biggest competition now!

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  9. Amen Girl! This is just what I needed to see today - I need to keep doing me, thanks for inspiring me.

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    1. That's what running sistas are for, right? :) Big hug. x

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  10. Thank you sharing in #ShowcaseTuesday #linky and great motivational tips

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    1. Thanks for hosting the linky - much appreciated!

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  11. So true! Most of these apply to life too! #ShowcaseTuesday

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    1. Haven't thought of it that way, but, yes - definitely! Thanks for stopping by!

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