Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Forget minimalist shoes and sports kilts. THIS is the new running cool...

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!


  1. Depending on the race I run I see more or less serious runners and think what's wrong with me? The thing I'm most excited about on our adventures is being able to run in new places including mountains! We're headed to Boulder in June and I'm beyond excited to run!

    Glad I'm in good company!!!

  2. I know I said it before but at MTD I heard the cave and smiled and sent hugs your way!!

  3. Angie, "The Cave" is definitely our song. I heard it in the car on the Saturday and thought of you. Fingers crossed for next year..:)

  4. Great article. I think you sum up the essence of Charlton McGillacutty's (ha!) book beautifully.

    Referring to the end of paragraph 3 I think the opposite is true as well - the races that are generally more fun and relaxed are often associated with good, or at least better than expected results.
    During a race I took part in a couple months ago, I don't think I have ever grinned so much. Without the pressure of chasing a certain time I was free to enjoy the day and took great pleasure in cheering others I knew in the race. It was also the first race I did without wearing a watch (naked).

    I think you are totally onto something with the suggestion that the 'Smile' is the new must-have running accessory. Best thing is that they are contagious!

  5. you are so right!!

    the smile is definitely coming into fashion. even the germans have started smiling at each other and i thought it would never happen.

    i am an expat in Germany from the UK and it is quite de-motivating when i run past someone and smile and they give me the 'are you crazy?' evil stare. but lately they have started to cheer up!

    so come on fellow runners, give each other a smile - it is not just a great fashion accessory but also gives you a boost of energy - so it can be the next lucozade / powerade / etc as well!

  6. As someone who has been using running to deal with depression, I think this is a great article! I've recently discovered the same thing. If we aren't enjoying ourselves, what is the point? We aren't chasing down game like the bushmen in the Kalahari, we are going this for enjoyment. And if we aren't smiling, where is the enjoyment?

  7. I is supposed to be fun...even if you are going for a PB. Lose that sense of adventure, passion, and pure enjoyment and part of the spirit of running dies along with it. This weekend, a buddy of mine decided at the last minute to bike 90km to a race, we crashed at friends place over night, and ran the next morning. It was the adventure, sharing the experience with friends, and living life that made the whole event worthwhile.

  8. Hi ... find you via Facebook!

    Love this post! I've been discovering this myself and loving running more than ever.

    Happy smiling and running!

  9. thank you kitty! just what we need - better attitudes and more gratitude for the awesome privilege of moving our bodies! and thanks for the race plug too, i mean it. it is nice when people run fast and do well, but what i want to see is a slew of happy and satisfied people, it means i did my job right!

  10. I'm a new follower!!! Love this. I'm going to share it on my blog.

  11. Oh Katie, you got me with this post at the best possible time! My injury anxiety is starting to rear its ugly head with race season starting for me. Your perspective, I'm sure, will keep it in check!

  12. You are right. It should be about having fun and having adventures. And, from my experience, quicker times come when you are enjoying your running.

  13. I love this. I am right in the midst of this journey, evolving from a PR-obsessed runner to one who simply enjoys being out there. Will I stop racing? Probably not, but I have set aside 2011 to focus on learning as a runner and enjoying the journey.

  14. I say race with a Smile train with a Frown. Smiles are more efficient and Frowns use more muscles in your face providing a better workout while training.

  15. You nailed it. I was so stressed about training for my first marathon that I actually stopped running! The pressure and guilt for any missed runs was too much. Thank you for re-affirming my new perspective. Happy running!!

  16. Love your post. My race photos from my last event all show me with this psychotic looking goofy grin, even hurting in the final miles. I have found especially that trail runners love to smile and joke and laugh and holler their way through the woods. I love being out on the trail with my tribe.

  17. Last year I decided to only run at a pace that allowed me to maintain a smile throughout. I reset my personal record three times since then. Of course running in VFFs helps me smile.

  18. Stumbled upon your blog and happily found inspiration. Like you, our life has been shaped somewhat (recently for us) by a child's illness (juvenile diabetes). Just months before our then 9 yr old daughter's diagnosis in Dec '09, I had read Born to Run and thought I had found a new goal... 50 (miles) at 50 (yrs). I can remember even posting that on a friend's FB wall and the n rushing out to buy a pair of VFFs, which I did and promptly fell in love with.

    Since then, because of the worry, the time commitment and lost sleep over my daughter's illness, I have focused instead on how to shorten the amount of time I give to running and exercise in general (but still yield the same results). Your post reminded me that running doesn't have to be exercise, but something I just do for fun (my wife and I trained together for our first and only full marathon, crossed the line holding hands!). Who knows, maybe in a few years, we'll tackle one with our daughter, diabetes be damned!


  19. I know that Duck race.. so inspiring. I can only DREAM!!!(mamarunsbarefoot)

  20. Love the post. I'm running a half in about 2 weeks and you inspired me to leave the damn Garmin at home, in a box, in the garage, 3 streets down! Thanks for reminding me to smile and smell the roses enroute. M

  21. Bravo! What a life changing article. I have always been a slave to the clock but now I will be leaving that at home and instead be wearing a smile. I'm 52 and am excited about this new chapter in my life. Thank you for your inspiration.


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