How to run happy – a geographer’s take.

Quite a while ago now, my good friend Vybarr Cregan-Reid – also known as pscyhojographer, was writing a piece for the Telegraph about how to be a happy runner. He asked me for some thoughts and this really set my brain to work and I sent him much more than he could ever have used. Anyway, the article was published back in May, so I thought I’d now share my thoughts on how to run happy.

And caution – this post contains some extreme geography-love!

vcr run

For some, running is about sporting achievement; it is about increasing speeds and reducing times. For others, running is a means of gaining, improving and maintaining fitness; it is about losing weight, burning calories and getting active. In such instances, it is the successful achievement of these aims that can make a runner happy. Such happiness is often only confirmed once the running is complete, once the watch is checked, GPS route uploaded and calories logged. Sport and health are by far the most important reasons why people run but in being so goal-orientated, and deriving happiness from the successful attainment of these goals, many runners can overlook some of the truly joyous aspects of running. Such aspects are known to all runners and a simple retuning of our happiness-in-running aerials may enable these caverns of wonder to be enjoyed.

As a geographer, the most interesting thing about running, to me, is that it represents a unique way of inhabiting and experiencing the world. A runner’s perspective and knowledge of the world is so fascinating and it is something, as a runner myself, I take great pleasure in. Because runners’ approach the world with a different speed, different rhythm, different intent and different sensibility, they develop fascinating and often quite intimate relationships with the world, with the people, with the things around them.

Taking place for example, runners can revel in the detailed knowledge of places they build up by running, which informs them of which routes to run for particular sessions, what road crossings should be avoided for a disruption free run, which side of the road bestows the best views, what roads offers the best surfaces, which hills the most exhilarating descent, which hills the most rewarding ascent, where to go when you want to escape, where to go when you want to get lost in the landscape, where to go when you want a fast hard run and where the top-secret-don’t-tell-anyone-about-this best places to run are. The personal mental map a runner charts of their local area and routes is simply quite astounding and something to be celebrated with sheer glee. Yet it is not just near places or known places that running offers such perspectives of. Most runners can recount the most spectacular places they have run, the experience of running here for the first time and the time they decided to run there just for the challenge of doing it. Running can take you places, it offers unbeatable access to different spaces, to different sights and to different landscapes. Let’s rejoice in our runner’s perspective, it is a genuine delight.

Retuning our happiness dials away from what we achieved from a run and towards what we did, what we experienced, what we saw, what we felt and what we encountered during running is a sure fire way to become a happy runner. It is a move from happiness after the event to happiness during the event. Running is a unique and wonderful way of experiencing the world and by attuning ourselves to appreciate the minutia, the trivial and the everyday, run of the mill happenings of our running can bring about great pleasure.

My tip for how to become a happy runner: notice and enjoy.


2 thoughts on “How to run happy – a geographer’s take.

  1. purplecords says:

    Great post Simon. I am becoming a fan of run-exploring/ run-tourism. Going for a casual zip around a new place – you can cover a lot more ground at a faster pace and instead of developing what I call ‘traipsing round’ fatigue from walking, you have comfy trainers on, pace and some adrenaline to take you through. And, if your only goal is to enjoy, you can allow yourself to stop for a photo/ map read/ explore in more detail then carry on 🙂

    1. simoniancook says:

      I agree Sam, I’m doing much more of it myself. Even on a small scale – taking paths I’ve never been down through well-frequented parks etc. I particularly like finding hills with great vistas at the top – certainly earned a pause at the summit.

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