I think it’s strange how many people assume that process should suddenly stop when we reach adulthood. We might still play occasionally, usually when supporting children, but we seldom do it for its own sake.
Running is a great opportunity for play. Unfortunately a lot of runners lose this sense of playfulness in their running. This might happen from the outset. You may have started running not because you enjoy it for its own sake but because you had another agenda. You wanted to lose weight, to get fit, or compete. All these are worthy and worthwhile ends. But the ends should not overwhelm the means. Running shouldn’t just be a means to an end, it should be something enjoyed for itself.
So in amongst all the training runs, the intervals and cross training, it’s crucial to ensure you are doing some playful running. Explore an unrunnable trail for the adventure of it. Follow a river. Run for a chat with friends. Run with your kids.
We should be able to maintain a sense of play even in the midst of our most rigorous competition. We all want to perform at our best, we want to stretch ourselves to get the most out of running for our bodies and minds. But for most of us that is not going to end on the podium singing the national anthem. So, relax. Play.
It’s the playfulness that creates the sportsmanship and the magic moments. It helps us stop to help another runner, have a joke and a laugh and enjoy the views. Ultimately, it is what we will all remember from our lifelong running when all the numbers have faded away. It’s what will inspire others, including the next generation, to follow in our playful footsteps.