Sunday, December 13, 2009

Run Like a Kid

As I came up the stairs onto Hyannis Drive I saw a table covered in food, a bucket filled with sponges and water, and whack of smiling, happy people, including one of my colleagues. I was nearing the finish of the 2007 Knee Knacker and I was feeling amazing. I had some food, hugged my colleague, had a chat with some of the best volunteers on the North Shore, and carried on to tackle the Seymour Grind. That year I finished the Knacker in my best time ever and I felt better than ever. Sure the training helped, but there was something else. I was happy.

Really, really, happy.

This past summer, I blogged about Chris McDougall's book, Born to Run, and I mentioned the idea of barefoot running. That's not what stands out from that book anymore. What does stand out however, is that so many successful (loaded word) runners are happy when they run and they are truly, and deeply, engaged with the people around them. They clearly love running and wouldn't give that experience up for anything. It is a way of life. I believe McDougall's example was of the Tarahumara of Copper Canyon, Mexico. While racing Leadville in 1993, they were described running up a hill late in the race upon which most other runners were brought to a slow walk. These guys were allegedly laughing and talking as they bounded to the top. I haven't run Leadville, but I can try to imagine what some of the runners went through to survive that one hill.

Why do we runners run? Everytime I visit my mom in Kelowna I take the opportunity to get out and run a little in the Okanagan. She always asks me why I run and will inevitably tell me about some suffering sap she had seen the week prior, going down the road looking like hell. She tells me how miserable this guy looked and she cannot figure out why he, and so many others, are out there. I never have an answer for her, but I suppose it's because they want to. Maybe they have a health goal, or their doctor told them to. Or maybe it's because they can and they really enjoy running.

Remember running as a kid? You'd rip across the grass in bare feet, leap through a sprinkler, and turn around and come back. Or sprinting into the waves at the beach. You weren't going anywhere but in circles, and it was fun. Just fun. Everyone knew who was the fastest kid in the class, but it didn't matter, we all still ran. This way, that way, up, down, wherever. I vividly remember going to the water slides and running up those hills to the top for 5 or 6 hours straight. It was fun for every kid, and everyone could do it. That is until we were graded on running. Remember the 12 minute run? Of course I loved it. It was easy marks, but I know heaps of kids who hated it, including my sister. Running became a job for them. They were being forced to run for a grade and most of them only ran as far as was necessary to get a C+ or a pass.

After a long run yesterday I sat on my couch feeling great. I'd run for just less than four hours and all in all, it felt pretty good. Sure, I was tight in a few spots, but I really had a good time and I kept my mind on smiling throughout the run. You can imagine how stupid it looked, me smiling away in the woods, but the parts where I was super mindful of being happy with that moment, were the spots where I really flew. (Now you know why I took off up Old Buck and Good Samaritan, Mr. Coo.) In that same light, not a person goes by on the trail that I don't say hello to. It makes me feel good and off I go down the trail.

Try it sometime, I dare ya. Put a huge smile on your face and let it fly down the trail, like when you were a kid running through a sprinkler. I saw a sign today, in Starbucks of all places, that said, "I wish grown ups could remember what it was like to be a kid". Be a kid!


  1. bribery works for the c+ students. i'd run faster for a bag of chips.. :p

  2. You'll run faster when I tell you too.