It sounds simple enough, although runners of all distances know it can be far more difficult to put into action than those two little words indicate.
My only running goal for 2015 was to run happy.
It echoed the theme of 2014, when I sought to disconnect my brain from constantly being in training mode and taking my middle-of-the-pack abilities far too seriously. In 2013, I became far too wrapped up in the races I’d signed up for and overvalued the significance of each one from a racing perspective. I was constantly “training” for something, and that stole my focus away from simply valuing the day and the opportunity to let my legs take me on an adventure.
In 2014, I cut back the racing schedule to only a handful of events, and I refused to make a single training plan. The result was peace of mind on the trails, and fulfillment from most of my runs. Why not keep that mojo rolling in 2015?
What unfolded in 2015 was almost surreal. A combination of not having any goal races or training plans, an unusually wet spring and early summer in Kansas City (which caused most local trails to be closed for weeks), and a move to Massachusetts in August all contributed to me having fewer long runs this year than in any of the previous three years that I’ve been running ultras. I had just four runs of 20 miles or longer in all of 2015 – and three of them were races.
Ultimately, those successes come down to running happy, meaning that my goal for the year was fulfilled. Not once did I feel bad about not having a training plan. Not once did I feel guilty if I skipped a run or cut it short if my head wasn’t in it. It requires a lot of time to run 1,404 miles in a year. I enjoyed almost every one of those miles, meaning it was time well spent.
A few races have piqued my interest for 2016, and they will require a bit more focused preparation than what I’ve been willing to do during the past two years. More strength work and hill repeats will be necessary; perhaps even a training plan will need to be drafted. We’ll see. Whatever comes of those races, as well as any others that find their way onto my calendar next year, I’m going to stick with what’s working and only have one running goal again next year: Run happy.