Running and happy.  Most of society would argue that these two things don’t coexist well together.  For many of my 38 years I would have agreed with this point of view.  Though I’ve run in one way, shape, or form for the majority of those years, I often did so begrudgingly only to keep a semblance of fitness between late night Taco Bell orders.

I will never forget being in a changing room at a Lands’ End outlet and pouting to Jennie that I resembled my favorite fruit – a pear.  Oh, yes, with narrow shoulders, skinny arms, and a quickly rounding middle I was looking like a balding bartlett or anjou.  That was pre-marriage and pre-kids.  In complete honesty, it was also pre-happiness.

That event triggered me to begin running again and hitting the weights.  It took about 5 years before I started enjoying running again.  And then another couple years before I really had a breakthrough and starting running happy.  Well, at least most of the time… we ALL have our days.

With that backdrop, I share three ways to help make your next run a happy one.  These tactics won’t work every time, but are useful additions to your mental running toolkit.  They can be used individually or in combination with each other.   With a little creativity, these tactics are easily transferable to our non-running lives as well.

1 – Unplug

Let the backlash begin. Consider periodically leaving the GPS watch and the iPod at home and running sans electronics.  It will feel uncomfortable at first, but with time, your mind will appreciate the escape.  On top of that, you get to run without worry.  No obsessing  about your exact pace.  No mile splits to care about. No songs to shuffle through.  I think you’ll be surprised by how your running almost turns into active meditation. We can’t unplug all the time, but we all can sometimes.  Give it a try once a week or even once a month… and then, be brave and try it in a race.   I double dog dare you!

2 – Smile

I get it, when your quads are burning and you feel like crying, the last possible thing you want to do is smile about it.  Been there!  You know the old adage about frustration – doing the same thing over and over getting the same results.  Well, try a different approach.

When you feel like grimacing, catch yourself and smile instead.  I believe you will notice a couple things.  First, that manufactured smile will likely be accompanied by a giggle as you pick on yourself for smiling at such a time.  Suddenly, you will be in a slightly better frame of mind.  Secondly, those witnessing said smile will feed you energy… I promise.

The best part about this, you don’t have to wait to smile until you’re in a valley.  Smile early, smile often and you will fuel a happy run from the inside out. Don’t under estimate the power of the mind and human energy.  It all starts with a grin 🙂

3 – Tier Up

Race day comes and it’s hot AND windy.  The PR goal you have been training for the last three and half months in 45 degree weather is not looking promising.  Chances are that your race today is going to be no fun at all.  That’s the risk you take with putting all your hopes in a single gear-check bag.  This scenario has played out for me many a time.  Grumpiness and disappointment ensued.

New approach – set A, B, C, and maybe even D-level goals.  Goal A may be that PR.  Goal B might finishing in the top 25% of your age group.  Goal C may be running a negative split.  Goal D might be simply smiling while you are running!  With these tiered goals in mind while both training and on race day, you set yourself up for a happy run regardless of most uncontrollable circumstances.

Let me be crystal clear… I am not advocating for aiming low.  You should work for and train towards that A goal, but also recognize that other factors are many times at play.  This is especially true as the distance of the race grows.  We all have days when our A goal will be out of reach.  The mental shift towards the next goal in line inspires continued focus.  Your chances of running happy also increase exponentially!  Don’t believe me… just ask Meb.

Now get out there and give these tactics a try.  Be uncomfortable.  Be happy.

Thanks to running, I’m generally a pretty happy dude… and thrilled to now be eating pears rather than looking like one.

Please share your feedback and any other ideas that work for you.

* credit for image of running pear to Pearland Pear Run @

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