How you enjoy your running is such a personal thing but what does it mean? It’s even harder to explain or define than why you run as you can at least attribute something tangible to that question, “so I can eat cake” or “to keep me sane”.
I have had it levelled at me that I wasn’t enjoying my running even if I thought I was and that I need to get back to that. Like I was doing it wrong somehow, how could I enjoy my running if I was pushing hard all the time. How could I possibly enjoy running hard or long or both? What do I know!?
I heard a quote some time ago, I think it was attributed to someone from the bike manufacturer Cervelo, it was, “fast enough to clear the forest, slow enough to see the trees”. That really resonated with me at the time and continues to do so, I take that into my running every time wherever I am. That could be the streets around where I live, the hills in the area or a trail or a different and new city or town. Being fit and able enough to cover a distance that will see me able to take in sights and sounds and seeing things that many won’t. Particularly early mornings when I tend to go out, you see a very different city or trail first thing in the morning.
I have a couple of memories that really stand out for me and my running. Moments where had I not been a runner I would never have experienced them and are totally why I love running and what it gives me.
We were on a family holiday staying in Son Cutcut, nearby was a hill at the top of which is the Santuari de Nostra Senyora de Cura, a monastery that has since been converted to a hotel and restaurant. The views across Majorca from the top are stunning. It is a beautiful spot. I had run up there early one morning, no traffic on the roads and when I got there no-one was around. Maybe a caretaker or gardener watering plants. Certainly there were no tourists. Looking out across the land as the morning mist evaporated under the rising sun was a beautiful moment. Whilst I am not a religious person, looking out I found myself thinking that I could see why people did believe in something other than what we know. It was just too perfect to have been an accident of geology. I haven’t changed my views but I can see why people hold them.
The Alps 2013
Staying in Abondance in France, a village towards the foot of Morzine, one morning, again an early start, I ran to the top. Initially on road then on trails and footpaths emerging at the top after seven-or-so miles of uphill running (OK running and walking!). As I made my way up the mountain I was looking across the valley and watching the sun peek through the gaps in the peaks casting long shadows across the valley. At the top the views across the valley were unquestionably and unsurprisingly stunning. The words do not do it justice. But what made it all the more remarkable was there was no-one else around. I was stood at the top of an Alp totally on my own. I am certain there would have been other people in the area but where I was stood and as I looked around there was no-one. Moments like this are why I run. To have that and be able to experience in that way is just such a privilege.
I had a similar experience a couple of years later on another family holiday. On our way back from the Dordogne we stopped in Paris for a few days. I had snuck out of the hotel leaving the family sleeping and gone for an early morning run. I made my way towards the Champs Elysee going through the Louvre on the way. As I got to the Louvre I found myself in the area where the raised glass pyramids are that you can look through and see down the underground entrance level. There was not another person there at all. I had it to myself. A place normally swarming with bustle and tourism and I was the only person there. It was eerily quiet, the sun was still low in the sky with the shadows long across the concourse. It was remarkable to be in a city and there not be anyone else around. I have had similar experiences to this in London on early Sunday morning runs.
Those are three moments that I can recall off the top of my head and whilst they are abroad and in new and exciting places they are still runs and let me tell you I really enjoyed them. I have had experiences within half a mile from my front door that have been rewarding in totally different ways. Coming down a hill very local to me a herd of cows galloped down behind me, past me and beyond. Not one of them coming closer than a couple meters to me. They just wanted to play. Seeing deer through the woods and making eye contact briefly until they disappear silently.
I’ve seen a family of wild boar on the trails in the Forest of Dean, not something you see very often and not as scary as I was expecting having always been told that they are incredibly aggressive.
It doesn’t always have to be an external stimulus to make it enjoyable either. Those moments when you get to or close to a flow state are sublime. No sooner have you started that you’re done and feel great without really much specific memory of the middle bit. Being totally immersed in the physical sensation of running so much so that everything else just fades to a background. The canvas on which you painted your run.
As I think more about what constitutes enjoyment I realise that it’s completely personal and doesn’t actually need any explanation. Often it will be beyond explanation. It’s a feeling, something deeply personal. I don’t think it matters whether you are a 30minute 5km runner or a quicker than 15min 5km runner there is something that gets you out there doing it, it might be easier to describe it as the why I run but if you don’t enjoy it you’re just not going to do it.
How you enjoy it is entirely up to you and anyone telling you otherwise is totally missing the point. It’s often said that when someone says something about you it is actually what they think of themselves and I’d suggest this is one of those moments.