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It’s OK to love running

Tempo in the snow.

Tempo in the snow.

What is the best bit of running advice you can get? Love running. It sounds obvious, right? And yet, a perusal of recent click-bait lists claiming “27 things every runner thinks on a run” would have you believe that most runners (every runner!) don’t really like running all that much. This is unfortunate.

Sure, there will be days when you won’t want to get your run in, but you do and you feel good about it afterwards. But if you feel like that most of the time, maybe you should question why you’re doing it. If you feel like you have to get those interval sessions in or you won’t knock those extra seconds off your PB, you may be right. No question, in order to achieve running goals, we must practice delayed gratification: we have to do some hard stuff to get to the good stuff. But what about the journey?

Coach Jay Johnson recently shared a convocation address given by David Foster Wallace. In it, Foster Wallace recounts a story of two older fish swimming by a couple of younger fish. The older fish ask “Hey fellows, how’s the water?” to which the younger fish wonder “what’s water?”

The point of the anecdote is to draw attention to how unaware we are of our surroundings, or perhaps how unengaged we are. We get into a “default setting” as Foster Wallace calls it. Default setting for runners, as evidenced by the listicles, is basically complaining about how much we hate running.

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Joe Vigil is a great running coach. He coaches Deena Kastor and Meb Keflezighi, among others. He also coaches much less — umm — fast runners. He’s a genuinely kind man but always tells it like it is. Twice I’ve heard him speak in person and both times he has implored us, coaches, to make sure runners know that in order to achieve your goals, you need to love running. In the case of international stars, they need to love it because they need to spend two to three hours a day doing it. That’s a lot of the same.

But for you and I, if we are going to call this running thing a pastime — something we do for fun — then shouldn’t we at least enjoy it most of the time? Next time you are out for a run, be it a jog, a tempo or intervals, take a second to appreciate the fact that you are running. You’re not injured, the wind is in your hair (or possibly freezing your face), and you’re moving fast along the ground. Live in the moment. Love the run.