Running Warehouse banner

Trail Running Course

Training and Fun-Running: Why Are They Viewed Separately?

I call it “Generation Born to Run”. You know, McDougal’s book about drunken Jenn Shelton, a bunch of Indians in Mexico playing ball while running, bare footing and just having plain ol’ fun. At any age, sounds so awesome in our old age when job and family responsibilities are weighing so heavily on our shoulders. It, also, spurred the second biggest wave in American history of running a-mass, and, this time, it is trail running.

First wave? Dean Karnazes’ Ultramarathon Man. You know, the idea of suddenly popping out a 30 mile run out of the blue and then continuing with those while ordering pizza delivery (and devouring it!) during a night run.

Don’t take me wrong, I am all for getting as many folks off their butts stuck on couches, as possible. After all, there was Oprah’s book before that, and whatever else I had managed to miss. Regular folks showing other regular folks that it can be done.

However, a lot stems to an apparent shift in society that things shall be easy for us. Or, that, at least, because we work hard at our day-jobs, we should just roam free while at our hobby–no effort required to be put in.


The only thing is, we also expect results. Whether it’s getting better from race to race, improving times, extending distance, placing, finally not being a DNF – doesn’t matter. Staying in the same place where we started makes us feel a little awkward…and then we look for excuses, before even realizing it.

“I am in it just for fun.”

“I simply want a stress relief.”

“I like plodding mindlessly.”

I’ve said them all. Used them often, too. Admittedly, I always knew that when I did (and do) – it’s because I am not willing to put in an effort. Becoming scared of the outcome, whether negative, or positive. My mind is somewhere else, and the focus is on things, by far, more important than just doing 400 meter repeats on the track at God-damned early hour in 80 degree weather magnified by 90% humidity.

Yes, at least I am honest with myself.

We rave on articles and blog posts where we see gorgeous pictures of mountains (and half-naked gals and guys roaming on top of them), and we “like” and comment on those that allude that those runs, as well as, great races, just “happen”. We stay much quieter when other folks post what workouts they did, about how bad it felt, how hard it was to get out (yet they did), complaining about how the legs weren’t moving, the lungs weren’t breathing, and the gagging reflex was preventing proper hydration. Yet, those 400s, or 800s, or mile-long hill repeats got done. And, we feel oddly almost mad, and puff the chest up, and say, “Good for ya, but I am here for the fun of it.”

When did training hard become a synonym of not having fun, by definition?

When did it become that those who choose not to commit to traditional views on training for any event of any length or surface are better people in general and runners in particular than those who do?

Has this trend come from the idea that trail runners (and barefoot runners) are closer to nature and therefore understand nature better and need not to do anything beyond splashing in grass or dirt with joy, and that makes them superior?

Every time someone says, “And now I’ll train for a marathon”, a line of “OMG, why would you wanna do THAT?” follows.

That makes me sad…

Where I came from, hard work is what was admired. Whether in work or fun. A hobby is, also, something you’d probably want to do well and excel at, no? I would. And, when I apply the ethic of work to a hobby, be it running or knitting, it carries to all the other aspects of my life, as well. It gives me consistency, pride, and self-confidence to deal with whatever is thrown at me. No hiding allowed.

The truth is, training hard IS fun. It is never easy for anyone, from the next-door neighbor to an Olympic athlete, to wake up and drag the body to whatever it is that needs to be exercised.

Squint the eyes, focus the mind, push.

Every single day is a battle. But, as I go through, in a few minutes, a feeling of a warrior rises. I can do it! Nothing better than that. Taking myself far outside the comfort zone is what I strive for.

Not settling in.

Not being comfortable.


And, then, there are days when I plod, literally. Easing my mind into a space where it’s empty at first, having thoughts flood, chewing on them. Then, they become just by-passers without my direction. Come and go! Left foot, right foot. Run, walk – dictated by the terrain and a breath. Easy–well deserved easy. No guilt easy. No reason to explain to anyone “It’s my hobby!” easy. Just float, however long it takes…

I guess, what I am trying to say is that nothing in life ever comes easy, but that doesn’t sell. We teach our children that everybody “gets a trophy”, and participation is the key. It is. But, all of us will not be a winner. We don’t have to be. That last one – he or she toed the starting line and made it through. Worked hard. Overcame insecurities and obstacles. Pushed on.

Not everyone has to train hard. And that is great, really! There are a lot of people who need to be just playing. But, what I am asking is, when you come across someone who finds fun in something other, maybe even hard training – don’t label them “no fun”, because maybe, just maybe, they are having the time of their lives!

At the end of the day, you can stand in front of the mirror, look yourself straight into the eyes and say “I gave it all I had today” – that was a good day.

– Olga King

[Photo: Courtesy Krikit @]

About the author

Olga King Olga King (Varlamova) has picked up a second wind of running at the beginning of her fourth decade. With the success of being a self-proclaimed “freight train that never stops”, she has finished over 100 races at distances from the marathon and beyond. For more information on Olga, check out the About page where you can see some of her health and coaching related projects.

3 Responses to “Training and Fun-Running: Why Are They Viewed Separately?”

  1. on 09 Aug 2012 at 10:08 am Chris R.

    Great article Olga! I can really relate. I often utilize the “I’m just doing this for fun” etc. to justify a poor race or a crappy training run or subbing an easy workout for a hard workout. Thanks for the thoughts!

  2. on 10 Aug 2012 at 5:28 am olga

    Chris, you know I’ll be at your service yelling comes late October! Looking forward seeing all of the sufferers again:)

  3. on 23 Aug 2012 at 12:17 pm Laron

    I like it! Great article hitting American culture on the head. And I know that I suffer from that disease as well: things have gotta come easy or I’ll complain. But, I especially liked the point that what we often see and read is the end-the result-of much sustained, concentrated effort.

    Last night, as I was doing intervals, the thought crept into my head to take it easy. Then, something my dad said popped into my mind, “If it was easy, everybody would do it.” It kept me going hard. It wasn’t easy but it was fun.

    Yet, there is a balance here, too. Because working too hard can and does in fact occur, esp. when it comes to long distance running. It’s worse mentally and physically to push too hard and sustain an injury than it is to take an easy day, in my opinion. Although, if we’re careful, we can learn a lot from such injuries. Anyways, what I’m getting at is that it’s a difficult balance between working hard and too hard, and even not exerting enough effort.

    Olga, well written! Thanks for the thought provoking article. And may we continue to view hard work as fun!