Run Smiley in 8 Steps

Sometimes through intense training it is easy to forget why we enjoy running. These tips will keep you smiling, encourage you to loosen up, and appreciate every step of your athletic journey.

1. Run in your environment, not through it.

Use your run to experience your surroundings in a heightened way. The chemical changes that occur during a run aren't a temporary rush, but a conduit to get in touch with the world we live in. Running isn't a means to an end; it's a way of disconnecting from the modern world and re-connecting to our primal self.

2. Don't concentrate on the numbers.

Forget about mileage or pace or finish time. Just run until your legs ache and your heart pounds. As you run, pay attention to the details—touch the trees and feel the mud under your feet. If you feel good, run further. If the run isn't coming together, try again another day.

3. Stop occasionally.

Don't be so focused on the finish line that you don't take the time to reflect on the present. Stop to talk to people. Stop to hear the birds. Stop to see the view. Stop to feel the wind on your face. Just occasionally stop.

4. Smile.

Grin, giggle, laugh, and act the fool. The perfect runner should be grinning at the beginning of a race, laughing in the middle and wearing a huge smile of achievement at the end. The whole race should be a celebration of the fact that you are able to run. Your body can move efficiently and quickly. Your ancestors could out-run their food. Rejoice in that.  

5. Understand what type of runner you are and accept it.

This isn't easy. Sometimes we push ourselves to be the runner we want to be, or what we feel is expected. You may be a trail runner at heart, or a speedy urban road runner. Maybe you only love half marathons, or only dream about ultras. Perhaps you prefer running alone, or only feel happy running with a buddy. Be true to your preferences and do what you love.

6. Be respectful.

Be polite to the people you meet. Take time to talk and hear. Thank those who have helped you on your journey. Tread lightly as you run; other creatures have to tread the same path. Don't pollute or litter or damage your course. One day you may want to run this way again and you would want it to look just as beautiful.

7. Encourage others.

At the end of the race, go back on the course and cheer the rest of the runners on. If you are the first person to cross the finish line, be the last to leave. Every person you cheer on will be encouraged by your efforts. Slow down and pace someone who needs the support. This maybe your hundredth race, but the person next to you may be running their first. Your smile may be enough to put their fears and doubts to rest.

8. Realize that running is a pleasure, not a job.

Very few of us actually run for a living. We all have other jobs. We should never forget that running is recreational. It's something we do for pleasure. Don't be discouraged by set-backs through injury or life. We all like to drive ourselves, but remember to prioritize where running fits into your life. It shouldn't come before family or friends. Instead, use running as a way of connecting to others. If running is a burden, then what's the point?

Keep these simple rules in your heart when you become disillusioned with your runs. And always run smiley.

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Kate Kift is an administrator of the Run Smiley Collective and President of the Canadian Chapter of the Barefoot Runners Society. You can follow her blog at barefootkatiek.blogspot.com

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