Fruit. Forest. Forget. Forget to forage for fruit in the forest? No. That’s not it. The other F-word is……wait for it….. FUN.
A few times this weekend, I was a part of different conversations with different people about running, racing, triathlon-ing. As you know, I’m training for my first triathlon at the end of October. I’m kind of using this triathlon as cross-training for my marathon in January, where I completely plan to kick boo-tay. The difference between the triathlon and the marathon for ME, is that I plan to just race the triathlon for fun. WHAT?! I’m not going to go for certain times and all that? No, I’m not. My husband doesn’t believe that I will actually only care that I finish in the allotted time, and sometimes I don’t either, but I’m determined to leave this race as a fun experience that I will enjoy. I mean, I do care about time, I don’t want to dilly dally around and chat up the people at the water stops and all that, but I want to just do this thing. If you can “just” complete a half iron. I want to have a blast along the way. I need to. Because that shit is hard.
When I first started running as a kid and then doing races about 18 or so years ago, it was for fun and exercise. As therapy, too. And so I could drink more beer. Yes, I ran as fast as I could, but that was it. I put some miles in and I did what I needed to do to finish the race. By no means did I have a training plan, do speed work, run fartleks (although I’m sure I did plenty of farting while I ran, especially after drinking the beer that ironically, I was burning off), or really, anything besides the basics in preparation. My preparation plan was this (it’s highly complicated so you may want to read it twice): Get some miles in and then run a race. Boom. And it served me really well. I had a lot of fun. I finished several marathons this way, and it was an enjoyable, FUN experience.
Then I wanted to qualify for Boston. I started using training plans, got a coach, did speed work at 4:30 am at a vacant track in the middle of winter IN IOWA, ran 200 times around a 1/10th mile indoor track when it was way too dangerous to run outside. For several years I did this, and along the way, I fell in love with training for marathons. I love speed work. I enjoy tempo runs. I like the challenge of having a time to meet. I truly LOVE to train, to run, and all the parts of an all-encompassing training plan. Really, truly, I love it. L.O.V.E. I get runners highs right before racing, I get it in my off-season time, and when I mix post-exercise endorphins and caffeine, wow, a runner’s high is amazing.
So is running still fun for me? Yes. It is. I didn’t feel like my last training cycle was a job, and that’s probably because I take time off between big events. I had fun along the way, as I trained. I need down time and freedom after my big races, and I take it. But sometimes racing can be daunting. Especially when you’re surrounded by a million competitive athletes and are always hearing about how fast everyone is and improving and doing more and doing better. And a lot of the time, I’m one of them. But when it seems that whatever you’re doing is never fast enough, is never ENOUGH enough, then you know you might be living in a bubble. Have you or your friends ever said, “It’s only a half marathon/ only a half iron/only a 10k,/only an iron distance but not a sanctioned Ironman”? Yes? Then you know you might be living in a bubble. Pop it. Where did the fun go? Pop that damn non-fun bubble. I can’t even really race anymore without a concern for time. Yes, I do love it, but that competitive drive can take the fun out of it. And I can live with that, only because I really, truly love to run, train, and race. I do admit though, racing isn’t always fun anymore. Most of the time it is, but sometimes, I can’t help but care about the time on the clock when I cross the finish line. More than once, I let a time determine whether or not I had fun. And that’s not good.
What I won’t do is let that mentality get into my triathlons. I refuse. I won’t make these events about time. Yes, I’d like to kick some half iron boo-tay, but really, isn’t everyone who crosses the finish line kicking boo-tay? YES!!!! And athletes who have fun along the way are even better. Because why do something if it isn’t fun?
Do what you want for fun, not because you HAVE to or because someone else expects you to, or because “every one else is doing it”. Do it because you truly WANT to do whatever it is. Do it because it’s fun. If you want to climb up a rope onto a platform and then do a hundred one-armed push ups while a monkey sits on your head and whacks you with a book when you’re done, then do it, if you want to. Smile while he clonks you in the head. But when the fun starts slipping away, maybe it’s time to re-set your barometer. Maybe it’s time to really think about your motivations. But mostly, ask yourself if you’re having fun. I have the most fun when I’m gritting my teeth trying to run an 800 in 3:15. Whether or not I make it, I have fun along the way. Call me crazy, but I have fun running 18 miles.
FUN: THE NEW WHITE MEAT.
(Vegetarians → FUN: THE NEW EGGPLANT)
Give it a whirl, you may just like having fun!
On a side note, I mentioned my husband above, so I wanted to pass along his newly minted blog. The point of it is to just talk about life, Clemson, Red Sox, running, living with a Libra runner, kids, and oh, BEER. Go check it out HERE. Enjoy!
Thank you for the reminder. My last couple of months have been thin on fun in regards to running. But my best race memory is the race I grinned like an idiot the whole way through. I want to get back to that girl.