If there is any single piece of advice that I can pass on to runners of all shapes, sizes and speeds is to run happy. A long slog on a cold rainy day is not exactly a self-portrait of fun, so whatever the environment, workout, or weather, try to find something in that run that makes you happy.
My run today started off inauspiciously enough: I had an Queen's athlete meeting and then headed off to the XC course at Fort Henry with the men's XC team. It was their off-day so it was a pretty easy pace for me but I stuck it out until we got there and did a lap of the course with them too. I then did 2 more laps on my own at a slightly faster pace. Nothing special about this right? Wait for it. On my way home I passed a tennis ball sitting along the roadside. It was a nice one: bright and fuzzy and I couldn't pass it up. I grabbed it and continued running, now bouncing the ball off the pavement and catching it mid-stride. For some reason, this gave me the most unexpected happiness and as I bounced along I found my pace picking up. I was absolutely flying and all the while bouncing this ball! I finished my run feeling like the proverbial fat kid with a smartie: happy but hungry for more!
Now, I'm not advocating bouncing a tennis ball everytime you go for a run. I most likely won't take one out with me the next time I go. But the way I see it is this: you can be stonefaced and get down to the business of training with intent and get results, in the short-term . But for long term success and enjoyment, look for opportunities during your training to make yourself happy. Seize those opportunities as they pop up or create them yourself. Or both! Smile and wave at the fans as they cheer you along, chat with your competitors at the start, finish and even in the pack, joke with your teammates. During the summer, Kev used to bring a football to practice for us to kick around. Many coaches would advise against it, but training on my own, Kev knew that I needed something to mix it up with.
Today running became fun again for me and I now have a little spark to keep my training going for a while. But I will also strive to keep refreshing my running with more fun stuff, whatever that turns out to be. It might be another tennis ball or it might be something else!
Find your own tennis ball in your own running or whatever it is that you do.
Stay fresh, stay fun and run happy!