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This book may change your life, on and off the trails

“The Happy Runner” teaches us how unconditional self-acceptance is a recipe for running stronger and faster

The trail running community is in for a treat this week. Coaches David and Megan Roche just released their book The Happy Runner. Co-written by their dog Addie, the book provides a hilarious yet practical manual for long-term running happiness on and off the trails. Hundreds of runners have overcome the impossible by creating a happy running life. Not convinced? Sit back, have a gel, and read on how this book can change your running and your life. 

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Photo: David Roche

The big picture

The Happy Runner promotes long-term running happiness. This requires “zooming out” and adopting a mindset that looks beyond your next race goal. One of the book’s many wonderful messages: running and results do not define your worth. 

Process trumps results

“The difference between initial conditions and results is a product of embracing the process.” Through tough life lessons, the Roches share how they learned to love the process. Focusing on results in running can be useless, and often detrimental.  

Puppy principles

Inspired by the wisdom of Addie, the book is based on unconditional love and positivity. Addie exudes enthusiasm regardless of outcome or results. Addie speaks in all capitals throughout the book, offering advice from sprints (fetch) to nutrition (kibble). Addie reminds readers that ENTHUSIASM IS RENEWABLE AND YOU ARE PERFECT AND I LOVE YOU AND I SEEM TO HAVE LOST MY TRAIN OF THOUGHT. 


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Creating your ‘why’

The Happy Runner teaches athletes how to create a long-term relationship with running. This begins with creating your ‘why’ or reason you run. The Roches provide step by step guidance so that each day of running has meaning. Muscles break down in training and adapt to stress, but “breakdown without a purpose just becomes self-destruction.” Once you know your why, you can get faster with purposeful running.

Magic in the mundane

Life and running can be mundane as watching paint dry, if you think about it. For running and life to have meaning, we must create magic. “Finding magic in the mundane is a secret to being a happy runner.”  

Love you some you

“Running is a sport that happens between the ears.” Loving ourselves unconditionally not only helps create magic in the mundane, but can make us better runners. The book explains the science of how self-love can equate to better running. 


Supporting others can make you faster

The Happy Runner explains some of the reasons why the trail-running community is full of supportive and loving people. “When we act co-operatively and root for others, the nucleus accumbens, the reward centre in the brain, lights up with activity. The nucleus accumbens is filthy rich with dopamine receptors. And there are few things that make runners faster than making it rain with dopamine (and none of them are legal).”

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Sleeping and smiling are performance enhancers 

Additional performance enhancers include sleeping and smiling. Even if you don’t feel like smiling, the Roches believe in faking it ’til you make it. “Smiling can improve running economy, making faster paces feel easier… it might be the best little thing you can do to make a big difference in your running training.”

Let go in order to believe

Letting go isn’t just for technical descents. The Happy Runner teaches runners how to believe in themselves. Whether it be running their first trail race, setting a personal record, or overcoming an injury–belief is the cornerstone of being a happy runner. In other words, “every pizza is a personal pizza–if you believe in yourself.”


Stress is stress

When a runner zooms out and looks at the big picture, they start to understand how other parts of their life impact their training. The Roches believe that the body doesn’t know kilometres, it knows stress. The physical stress of training adaptations parallel emotional stress in the body. “Both emotional stress and emotional state influence neurobiology. So two runners who do the same training session can adapt totally differently depending on their state of mind.”

Running sucks sometimes

Just like any relationship can suck, so can a relationship with running. The book teaches runners how to deal with the suck. Sometimes injuries happen, “sometimes, your mental health doesn’t let anything rise above room temperature. It’s really, really hard. But we’re all fighting entropy, one of the most powerful forces in the universe, so it’s okay for it to be hard.”

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Easy is not a pace

Just like process trumps results, effort trumps pace. How something feels is more important than the number on the watch. The book explains how often we should be running at an easy effort, and what that means in the big picture for long-term running happiness. 

Photo: David Roche

Training methodology

“Run lots, mostly easy, not too much, all while working on smooth speed with strides and hills.” Happy runners understand that training is the test, and racing is the celebration. The book explains the methodology behind effortless fast running. There are five phases of training–the final phase involves a golden retriever puppy celebrating dinner time. 

“There is only one finish line, and it’s not a race”

Running is just like life. The highs come with the lows, so embrace the suck and enjoy the grind. As morbid and ironic as it sounds, “You live, you love, you run and you die. The whole time, no matter what, you are enough, unconditionally. This book is about connecting those ideas.” 

The Happy Runner is a manual for “loving and accepting yourself unconditionally.” Oh, and it’ll help you run faster too.

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