mundane adventures in running

Five ways to enjoy the perfect run

That buzzfeed style title is misleading, sorry.  I just wanted to explain why I had such a perfect run last night.  It wanted to share it with the world, partly because I can’t contain my excitement and partly because someone might learn something from it.  My guess is that a lot of it is personal, and very tied to the very moment of that run, not easily replicated at any other time for any other person.  Still, a quick 14k round Brockwell Park in London’s searing heatwave, ending in a dip in the pool in Brixton seemed like the most wonderful run I’ve done for some time.  And here’s why…

1) The pleasure of familiarity

In psychology, the mere-familiarity effect is the idea that phenomena become more pleasurable as they become more familiar.  like that you don’t really enjoy beer until it becomes second nature to drink the stuff.  Like that once you’ve enjoyed a song a couple of times, your brain gets used to enjoying and enjoys it better the next time, until you wind up with music that you just don’t get sick of.

For me, this holds true for running.  Novelty is a great thing, but familiarity is not to be sniffed at.

I’ve lived in South London for 15 years.  In all that time I’ve run the 3k loop round brockwell park several thousand times.  And mostly in the same, clockwise direction.  I know its twists and turns, the extra ad ons, the snaking, hidden path behind the bushes, the crappy bits of deformed pavement, the views, the timbre of the incline as you climb the hill at the south of the park. 

The clockwise loop of Brockwell park is a route i just don’t get sick of.

2) Barefoot is best

I ran without shoes on this run.  It’s not the best path for barefoot, a lot of the concrete is pretty abrasive, and the trail bits are littered with tree debris and broken glass, but barefoot made me slow down, and take care: focus on form, and focus on the run.  Concentrating more intensely made me enjoy the run all the more. 

Plus, I got props for being the weirdo without shoes.  It’s encouraging when other runners give you the thumbs up.

3) No headphones

Oh I’m starting to sound like a miserable, anti-fun bastard.  I love running with music, I also love running without music.  I would recommend anyone who feels married to their ipod to try running without, and mix up music-y and non music-y runs. 

Not listening to music is liberating.  You’re not a slave to the beat, you don’t make any effort to keep in time, or to get more intense when the music gets more intense (cranking it up for the AMAZING drop in the Lighter has proved problematic for me in the past). 

Without music I tend to breath with my cadence: to breath in for a number of steps, and out for a number of steps.  It varies depending on how fast I’m going and how knackered I am, but three in, three out is about right.  So that starts to take up most of my concentration and the run becomes a meditation.   While it might sound slightly ridiculous, it makes you feel cleansed, relaxed.  It puts you squarely to one side of your daily worries, anxieties and troubles.

4) No run computer

Or no monitoring the run computer at least.  I do enough goal orientated running that I don’t feel the need to make every run about pace or distance: I don’t need to stress about performance all the time.  Which is good, because I’m a pretty shit runner, and I’m not getting much better.  It’s just nice to not worry about it, and to put myself in the moment, rather than thinking about that particular monitor as being part of a continuum of less fit to more fit.

Ditch it, don’t be a slave to it, enjoy running as running from time to time: as an ends in itself not a means to an end, a single moment, not part of a journey to something else.

5) The promise of a reward

Like it wasn’t enough that i was running through London’s searing heatwave in a beautiful park, focused on the moment and revelling in the glory of my own physicality, I’d planned the end of the run: run down Railton Road and plunge myself into the pool at Brixton Rec for a few lengths and a nice, cool stretch, suspended by the water, most importantly, up to my neck in cool, cool water.   I know this contradicts everything I’ve said about being in the moment, but boy did it feel good!

For maps and stats (even though i wasn’t monitoring on the go, honest) click here 


One comment on “Five ways to enjoy the perfect run

  1. shinyshep

    I like that you got thumbs up from other runners! I am helping out at the Peckham Park Run tomorrow, I am on tokens, hoping before I go to Italy I will be brave enough to actually run one.

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This entry was posted on 24/07/2014 by in Run of the week, Thinking about running and tagged , , , .

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