I have been reading a few of my friends blogs lately - It does happen on occasion when I am not running around putting out fires (in my case literally; D is stepping up his game on being a scientist). One of the trends that people have been writing about is how they have changed they way they view running. A year ago I would say that going further, faster and as minimalist as you could would be on everyones mind. Now the perspective is different. Thankfully so; this running gig was interfering with my other role as "world renowned lazy arse"
This is also evident from my own personal experience. At the BMO marathon in 2010 my mindset changed. I went into the race with little training and I was just recovering from an injury (ITBS due to ramping up the mileage too quickly before anyone asks). After a drunken Facebook conversation with my virtual Facebook brother, I decided to enter the half-marathon at the last minute. I had no expectations or goals. I was just going to run. As it turned out I had an absolute blast.
My ideas on running changed in those 2 hours 15 mins. I went from wanting to run faster and further to wanting to run to have fun. This attitude was borne out with subsequent races. The races I didn't run well in were the ones that I hated running (and races I had forgotten to bring alcohol with me. Can you see a pattern here?).
It seems strange that this is a concept that is alien to a lot of runners. You would think if you train and run a certain distance you would enjoy the whole experience, however I have come to realise that for a lot of people this isn't the case. They run for the sense of achievement (which is great don't get me wrong), but in doing so all fun goes out of the window. You train for months to run a marathon in a certain time and that's your only aim. This leads to a make or break situation. If you fail to race a distance OR you don't make a certain time, then the whole 4-6-12-whatever months has been a waste of time. You think I am kidding, I wish I was. I have seen them at the races I have run and I have been left wondering "Why are you doing this?"
I have been reading the race reports from friends who attended the "Mind the Ducks 12 hour Ultra". I am still secretly jealous because I really wanted to be there. However... the overwhelming image I have taken from these reports is that goals -although they were nice- were NOT the reason people went to this race. They went so they could meet their friends and have fun. This was a 12 hour Ultra where the goals were charity and dressing up in Tutu's.
It's a small, low key affair, but I think in the scheme of things this race has hit upon the "new cool" in running.
In 2009, all the hip-running kids were wearing VFF's (or nothing at all) on their feet.
In 2010, all the cool-dudes in the running circles were wearing sportskilts - or something tartan and skirt-like.
In 2011, everyone you ever needed to know in minimalist running are wearing Smiles.
Smiles are the new fashion accessory. Forget running for a new PR; that's so Passe. Running a longer distance - it will get you a pat on the back, but nothing more. If you want to REALLY be in with the "in-crowd", you need to ditch the times and goals and stick a smile on your face so wide Jack Nicolson will be wanting to sue you for copy-right (or Heath Ledger, depending on how old you are).
I see this in my friends blogs and in virtual conversations and all I can think is "Thank God" people are finally getting it. I have posted a few times about how running is for fun and should be treated as such. Running is so part of our biological heritage and so intrinsically entwined into our survival instincts that it's actually hard NOT to have fun whilst you are running. The biological chemical surges we get when we run (or do anything physically active) are our bodies way of rewarding us for doing something so primal. However, this basic reward is lost in goals and times and being better than everyone else. It's similar to taking the social aspect of our nature and turning it into a solitary experience with social networking and blogging. What am I doing again? Damn it, okay, ignore that last paragraph.
One thing that came across from that infamous barefoot running book, "Born to Run" is that we are a herd species. I will admit now, that I have only read it once and that was about 18 months ago, so I apologise to Christian MacDouglas (joking) for paraphrasing wrong. When we hunted (via running), we needed people of ALL speeds to accomplish the task. The slow ones were essential to the hunt as the faster loin-cloth clad runners. We need to remember that it didn't matter then if we ran long and fast, what mattered is that we ran. We ran and enjoyed it. If Charlie MacMillian (or who-ever; still joking) didn't write that in his book then he should have. I think it's the most essential part of the book. Forget about shoe companies making billions from un-proved scientific theories. Running and being glad about it is the take-home point you should have.
So, here is me, letting you into the new fashion accessory for 2011/2012 in the running community. It has nothing to do with technology, clothing or shoes. You will not find it at the local running store or LuluLemon. In fact when it comes to it, it's cheaper than that Garmin you put on your Christmas list. All you need is a little change in attitude. Go on, put on a TuTu and grin stupidly at the volunteers at your next race. Don't look at your Garmin and check your pace. Check out the Bum's in their compression shorts instead. Go out, Run, laugh and smile your way to the finish line.
I swear, that in 2012 you will find ALL the Hollywood stars will be doing it at the red carpet!