The idea that people who run actually love it seems to be common because...well, it doesn't make sense that someone would spend so much time doing something they didn't enjoy! The average American watched over 17 hours of television per week last year according to this. But no one goes around saying "Ugh...I have to watch Dancing with the Stars for 2 hours straight tonight." (At least my Mom doesn't; she loves that show!) So, people who don't run may assume those of us who log a lot of miles just can't wait to get home, kick off our high heels and lace those up our running shoes! I can't speak for all other runners, maybe there are some weird ones out there who love it, but I'm here to tell you: I don't!
On days like yesterday when I have a long run planned (14 as soon as I finished work) it's looming all day. I do not, in any way, look forward to it; what I do look forward to is it being over with! Even while running, I'm wanting to it be done. "Only four more miles" we'll say, convincing ourselves we're almost there.
So, just why the h-e-double-hockey-stick do I spend so much time doing an activity that I don't enjoy? In a nutshell: The good outweighs the bad, and it makes me happy, if only when I'm not doing it.
In The Happiness Project author Gretchen Rubin writes about a thing she calls fog happiness.
Fog is elusive. Fog surrounds you and transforms the atmosphere, but when you try to examine it, it vanishes. Fog happiness is the kind of happiness you get from activities that, closely examined, don't really seem to bring much happiness at all - yet somehow, they do...When I stop to analyze my emotions during the various stages of these activities, I see procrastination, dread, anxiety, nervousness, annoyance...yet these activities undoubtedly make me "happy."
|Surrounded by some major fog happiness on last night's run through Crystal Cove.|
Not only do I enjoy the sense of accomplishment when get through a brutal training run, but I really enjoy working toward that end goal: the marathon. I enjoy signing up, and planning a trip around it, and training with my friends, crossing the finish line, sharing our experiences and eating whatever I want. And after the event, in retrospect, I think I even enjoy the nervousness, excitement and pressure that lead up to race day, although while I'm in it - in that fog - I would swear to you that I don't like it.
I guess another reason I train is because it forces me to live a certain lifestyle. I would not run consistently and that far if I didn't have to. And when I'm signed up for a marathon, I have to! I guess I sort of enjoy being forced to be dedicated to something that's good for me; forced to forgo nights out with friends in favor of early mornings with friends on the trail. I like having a common denominator with fellow marathoners...a certain level of understanding because they're doing the same thing, making similar sacrifices for a greater good too: life!
But, to be fair, it's not always just fog happiness that running brings me. There is the occasional day that the sun shines through, the fog is lifted, and I find myself enjoying, or even looking forward to, a run. Like an after work run around the Back Bay, talking the whole way while catching up with Delia. Or, a track workout so hard that I feel like I'll puke, but leaves me completely energized and enthused afterwards. Or, a run with our cross country kids in the rain that leaves us laughing after being drenched in a sheet of water by a passing car. I live for those runs, though few and far between they may be. It's in moments like those that I truly feel alive, and make secret promises to myself that I will run as long as I'm able.