When did running stop being fun? Lessons learned from an elementary school fun run


It was inspiring to sit back and see how much fun the kids had and how loud they got with the whole experience. Granted they may not have had much of a say in whether they participated, but they all looked like they had a great time.

And then my mind began to wonder: At what point in our lives did running stop being fun? Somewhere, somehow, as we all aged, what used to be this never-ending amazing experience turned into a chore, and some might add, it turned into torture.

“Running in many sports is seen as work and not all that fun,” says Eric Passey, Physical Therapist at Alta View Hospital. “And it’s often used as punishment. Another reason people don’t really enjoy running is rather than easing into it, many people think they need to run miles right away rather than starting small.”

Yes, I know most sports have their fair share of running, but without a ball or the points element, it’s just not the same. So where did we all go wrong? Well, let’s use our elementary school friends for a few examples of what can make running fun.

  1. They planned the race in advance. It was organized. There were lots of people involved, including their friends. Though it was just for fun, hence the name fun run, there was a competitive element. Their families and the community came out to support them. It kind of sounds like a 5K, half marathon, or marathon for kids.
  2. It was a big deal. Both schools held assemblies where they had a physical therapist from the hospital come teach them about nutrition, warming up and stretching. They also had the police department close down the roads to make it a safe experience and the kids were prepped well in advance to build up excitement.
  3. They were rewarded with treats afterward. With hard work, and lots of sweating, nothing was better to the kids than oranges, Gatorade, and water. It doesn’t sound like anything special, but the kids were in heaven.

These three elements may not sound that monumental, but they were simple aspects that made the whole experience memorable and fun for the kids. I would dare say that over the course of our lives, many of us are guilty of using running as simply exercise, something we have to do to keep the baby weight off or prevent that spare tire from taking over our midsections. But running can be so much more.

“Running is a great way to engage the whole body in an activity,” says Eric. “Aerobic conditioning brings oxygen to the tissue and helps its overall function. Aerobic conditioning also releases your body’s natural pain medication, which provides the euphoric sensation during and after exercise.”

For ideas, try a few simple search terms like “running fun?”, “I hate running,” or on the flip side, “I love running.” The blogs are endless and the ideas profound.

Here are a few of my favorite tips that may help you return to your youthful, elementary-school joyfulness and love running again once more.

  1. ALWAYS run with a friend. Yes, it can be isolating to run alone, but there’s plenty of road to share, so bring along a friend, or two or three. The time flies by and you don’t notice the pain as much when you get lost in a good conversation.
  2. Play a game. Remember all those silly road trip games your parents would use to entertain and distract you on long car rides? Even on your feet, you can still take them on the road! Play “20 Questions” with a friend or try to find all of the letters of the alphabet on the street signs you pass if you’re running solo.
  3. Discover the road not taken — take scenic runs. If you ate the same food for lunch every day, you’d inevitably get bored, and it’s the same with running. So perhaps it’s time to change it up. Here in Utah, the mountains are close and plentiful. Try a trail run or a run around a lake. Sometimes a change of scenery is all you need.
  4. NEVER run on a treadmill. See number 3. There’s nothing worse than being in the same place, literally not going anywhere, for 10 or 30 minutes or however long you run. Get outside. Go places and explore.
  5. Mud runs, glow runs and Spartan runs (kind of like fun runs). Sometimes signing up for a race and actually paying money makes things more fun. There are hundreds of races put on each year throughout the nation and here in Utah. They range from color runs to marathons to dirty dashes. There’s just about something for everyone.
  6. GPS running art.  If you haven’t downloaded a GPS running app on your smartphone yet, give one a shot. Not only do these apps track your distance and time, they also show your running routes on a map. The map tracker will draw a picture as you go. Be creative and see what masterpieces you can come up with.