So much in life is obligation and boredom. Work, commuting, grocery shopping (Awesome Wife Kelly asked me to note that I do not actually grocery shop, but it does sound awful). Even lots of the stuff we choose to do with our spare time is not stuff we truly want to do (think: shopping for clothes, attending your wife’s middle school friend’s kid’s birthday party). Even lots of the stuff we like to do isn’t fun (I like going to MOMA but I can’t remember walking out of there high fiving anybody). Take a second to sift through your average day or week and think about how much fun is in there. Pretty scary.
And this is something that gets worse as we get older. Kids have all sorts of fun all the time. Their life is all fun. This is why kids are constantly laughing and screaming. It’s also why they cry so much – being told you can no longer play on the jungle gym because you have to go learn fractions seems like something the CIA would do to captured ISIS soldiers. It’s a fact of life: As we get older the amount of our lives dedicated to FUN shrinks so tiny that it’s just about gone. You know it’s true because there’s a chart illustrating it.
Which brings me to my point (and probably the point of the entire blog) – RUNNING IS FUN.
Sure, it’s other things too. It’s healthy, it’s active, it’s outdoors, it’s social. But these are all beside the point. I run because it’s fun.
Running fast is fun. Starting strong and wondering how you’ll be able to make the full distance at pace. Building speed as the run goes, feeling the very first signs of resistance in your muscles. Maintaining your splits as each lap gets harder, until you can barely hang on. As you’re about to die, pushing for the final sprint, stretching your stride, struggling to fill your lungs. The burn throughout your body as you push just a bit further than you have the right to. Collapsing just past the finish and falling to the ground panting. All of this is fun.
Running far is fun. Long, slow running with lots of time to think. Falling into a zone where you know you could keep up this pace forever. The subtle boost and light feeling you get a few minutes after eating a caffeinated gel. Going two miles beyond the scheduled run just because it feels so damn good. Watching the rest of the runners blow by you, knowing none of them will still be at it in three hours. And especially that post run double bacon cheeseburger (and IPA).
Running to explore is fun. Arriving in a new city, throwing on your shoes and doing a quick five through unknown streets while the rest of the crew is sleeping. Getting lost and fruitlessly asking for directions in a suddenly foreign language and then unintentionally coming upon some grand castle, cathedral or bridge. Stopping in the middle of the run to take a picture of something you’d never expected to see and may never see again. Getting to parts of the city you’d never see otherwise. And then relating all of it to your non-running friends as they are simultaneously jealous and bored (but much better rested).
Running outside is fun. Especially when you get to run in actual nature. As a New Yorker I very rarely get to do this, but what an incredible treat when I’m visiting a friend and get to run on unexplored trails, with rough, uneven ground underfoot. Forgetting about the time and the pace and just following the trail that looks the most beautiful or interesting or challenging.
Boring runs are fun. That stupid 5 miler at a slow pace in the middle of the week or the last 12 miler during the taper. They start off so boring and lame, something you just have to do because the book said so, but you’re quite certain you will get nothing out of. Then suddenly you realize you’re half way through, you’ve barely broken a sweat and you have yet one more tangible proof point that your training has worked. That’s really fun.
Every once in a while running will stop being fun for me. So then I simply stop running (sure, if it’s in the middle of training for a race I’ll finish up with the training, then stop). At first I think it’s so nice to have more freedom in my schedule, to be able to sleep in a bit more or to be able to cross train. Then suddenly I’ll wake up on a Saturday morning and just have a burning desire to go for a nice long run. Almost inevitably I’ll get home energized and excited and I won’t be able to wait to get back out for my next run. Because running is fun.