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Monday, October 11, 2010

Running for fun

People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing. ~Dale Carnegie

Yesterday I ran my first official "race" since the marathon. It's was a race in that I was given a number and timing chip, and I started running with 4,500 other runners at the same time aiming to cross the same finish line. But I've come to prefer calling most of these events "runs" in place of "races" because usually my motivation for completing them really is not to win or even to place well against the field. It's to just get out there and run. If I am racing, it is usually only against myself. But when I am out there running just to run, I think I enjoy the events much more. The stress is less. The anxiety is less. And the fun factor and happiness factor...you guessed it. Much higher. I still like a little competition here and there, a test of fitness or a truly hard effort that you aren't likely get from running on your own. A race. But I also like standing at the start line just happy to be out for a run with a bunch of people who feel the same way. Running for fun.

For kids, running events are always called "Fun Runs." It's the grown-up versions that are usually called races. Maybe more people would participate if the purpose of some of these events was running for fun, where you win just for participating and your finishing time doesn't matter. In fact, it wouldn't even be measured. In a time when there is such a push for people to get healthy, and I think setting a goal of participating in a fitness event is a method that works. I know that it works for me. I am a much more consistent runner if I have something marked on the calendar, a goal. I think the competition aspect of "racing" is daunting to many people, especially new runners or walkers, and maybe, just maybe, the fun factor might be a big draw to get people moving and aiming to reach a goal.

Participating in these events, even coming out and watching the runners go by, helps you to see what an inclusive sport running can be. What so many people notice when watching a race, especially one with a crowded field, is the many, many different types of people who are running. Different strides, different body shapes, different genders and ages, different abilities, different paces, and different goals. The course yesterday had a turnaround spot so there was the opportunity to see the entire field about a third of the way through the race. We could see everyone ahead of us and everyone behind us as we ran. I loved watching the thousands of people pass by. Everyone has a story. Everyone is out there for a different reason. To finish, to reach a personal goal, to help someone else reach a goal, to improve, to beat the odds, to just know that they can. It's humbling and empowering. It's exciting and exhausting. It can be exhilarating and defeating all at the same time. It's something I love to do. I guess because I think it is fun.

Somewhere along the line, this turned into a bit of pep rally for running. While it wasn't my intention when I sat down tonight, I can't say it isn't how I feel. It's good for your body. It's good for your mind. Please make sure you are in okay shape to start out if you haven't run in a while. Or in forever. And you don't even have to run. Take a walk or ride a bike. Go for a swim. Just get out there and do it. It might take some time to get there, but if you give it a try, you might just find you are having fun. Success!

Be good. Be strong.

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