For years, I just focused on running fast times on three-mile courses. I never was very fast, but I did improve my personal best quite a bit.
The problem was, it was boring, and at a certain point that boredom affected my running. I just wasn't into it anymore. I noticed this change especially when I moved away from a place where I'd had access to a great running trail. The new place didn't have anything special -- mostly just running on suburban streets -- and I knew I was losing interest.
A couple of years passed. I continued running. I moved again. But this time I was downtown. I decided I'd had enough of running boredom. I just wanted to run and enjoy it. So here are some of the things I have been using to get back to running for the fun of it:
- Varying Distances. It's been 17 years since I ran much more than three or four miles at once. Now I'm running anywhere from three to 16 miles. I'm thinking I might even work up to trying my first marathon.
- Varied Scenery. I let myself take off in different directions. One day, I'll run downtown; another day, I'll head out toward the suburbs.
- Different Terrain. Sometimes I run along the railroad tracks. Sometimes I run on paths and trails. I like to cut through empty lots, run down alleys, and otherwise mix it up.
- Different Weather. I run all year round. I always have. But now I'm more likely to run in the rain and snow deliberately. A summer rainstorm is really refreshing, and very nice.
- Different Gear. I also try to explore my limits in terms of the clothing I wear. I was in shorts and a T-shirt at least one day every month, this past winter. I was surprised at how quickly I warmed up, even on days when I wasn't wearing much. Running in your shorts, during sleet and snowfall, definitely makes a run more interesting!
- Varied Routes. Once or twice, I have done one-way runs. Then I caught a ride with someone or climbed on a bus to get home. Running to go to a new place is somehow more fun. I've also "run" errands on foot, when I don't have to carry anything heavy or distracting.
- Different Strategies. I've bought a set of Heavy Hands-type dumbbells, and on even-numbered days I run with those. This gives me a mild upper-body workout without requiring any additional time. I've noticed that, even though the weights are pretty light, they make running harder, so I go slower. Another variation: I've begun doing quarter-mile or city-block sprints alternating with walking an equal distance. I also find that biking exercises different muscles and breaks up the routine.
- New Starting Points. When my familiar running routes around my home became too familiar, I began to experiment with running from different starting points. One approach I like is to bike off in some direction a few miles, lock the bike, and run a loop from there.
There are some other things I'd like to try. I've always run alone -- it's just easier with scheduling and location -- but I've been thinking maybe I should hang out by the trail and wait for some other runners of seemingly similar ability to come by, and ask if I can tag along.
I've also wanted to try a sort of free-form triathlon. There are some rivers and ponds near here, and I've wondered whether I could swim across them in my running shoes. Haven't wanted to drown, so I haven't tried yet, but at some point (if I can find the right location) maybe I'll experiment with that.
I was looking into backpacks and fanny packs to carry a bit more gear, so that maybe I could run to the movies with a jacket, and not freeze in their air conditioning. It seems, though, that packs tend to chafe people. Still looking into this.