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This is a great question, and the answer varies among individuals. Running for fun is not typically the starting point for most runners today. With America’s obesity epidemic, most runners are starting for reasons more closely related to weight loss, stress management, or simply to give them an excuse to eat the next dessert. Whatever your reasons for starting to run, there should come a point when running becomes fun – yes, you will actually look forward to hitting the trails (or pavement) first thing in the morning.
My running career started like most people. No, I didn’t begin in high school with a track team. I also didn’t just up and decide one day that running sounded like fun and I would push myself to the limits like an adrenaline fueled junkie. Actually, I was sick of the way I looked and felt, and was ready to get active and change things. I had to force myself out into the heat of the day (sweating bullets) to get one of my three miles a week in. I was only doing the bare minimum that I felt was necessary to lose a little weight. Fun was not a word that I found to be associated with running. It was a chore, and so I treated it that way.
I had met some other guys who were running 15 – 30 miles a week and I thought two things: a) they were crazy, and b) I wish I were that crazy. What in the world was driving these madmen to run at such lengths and speed? Whatever it was, I didn’t have it. One of these friends asked me to do a half-marathon with him in December of 2012. I said sure, although I had no idea how I would manage to tackle such a distance. This goal I set was exactly what I needed to push myself to the next level. I was told that my training should consist of long runs exceeding 10 miles. I (slowly) worked my way up to 6, 7, 8, and 11 mile runs within a couple of months. Before I realized it, I was running 14 miles at a time. I had exceeded my goal (and was ecstatic)!
This was my turning point; running was officially fun – mostly because I finally felt like I was good at it and could far exceed my goals. Besides, by this time I had lost 20+ lbs. and was already feeling physically better. I ran my half marathon and finished in 1 hour 39 minutes, placing me 131st of 1,173 participants. I wanted to run for longer distances, at higher elevations, and (of course) faster! I had become just like one of my “crazy” running friends; I craved the run and looked forward to it. I finally had what they had.
Since that first race, I have remained active within the racing community. I am always signed up for a race, whether it’s a 5k or full marathon. I have now completed 1 full marathon, 2 half-marathons, 2 5ks, and have another 5k lined up for this weekend. I rarely think of running as competition though. Really, you’re only opponent is yourself - fighting that inner voice is the toughest. Today, I typically think of running as a way to get out of myself, relax, and yes, have fun. I love meeting up with my running friends and taking off down the road, leaving life in our dust. Of course, there are probably many bystanders thinking, “They’re crazy.” Perhaps, I’ll meet them soon enough.
What is your motivation for running? Has it become fun yet? Tell me in the comment section below.
If you're thinking about running a half-marathon, check out this training guide.