Leave the stopwatch at home. Have a better time.

A couple of months ago, I was getting ready to go out for my midweek tempo run, when disaster struck: I couldn’t find my running watch. And what’s the point of a tempo run if you can’t check your splits and your overall time?

Nevertheless, as I didn’t have the time available to keep looking, I got my running gear on, did a slightly shorter than usual warm-up and headed out into the night. ‘Never mind’, I told myself, ‘just take it easy and enjoy the run, rather than worrying about why you’re 30 seconds off your target time at the half way stage.’

So I stopped taking the run seriously, enjoyed the great sunset over Southport Pier as I ran past, and found that I enjoyed the route much more than I had in months. Sure, I have no idea whether I ran a PB, or whether I was 2 minutes outside of it. But the thing is, by the time I got home, I really didn’t care about any of that.

Best of all, when I eventually found my watch and went for my long run at the weekend, I felt really, really good on that run too. Largely, I think, because I’d rediscovered some of the fun in running that goes missing when you get into the endless treadmill of training for a marathon.

Now. The point of this piece is obvious: I’m suggesting that maybe we can all benefit from leaving the watch at home every now and then. Because if you’re not sweating about your time, you’ll find it much easier to rediscover the reason you took up running in the first place: just the sheer joy and relaxation of striding along with the wind in your hair, where performance is measured in ‘did I have a good time’, rather than in the seconds recorded on your running watch.

Obviously, if you’re training to improve your race times, or build your fitness up to get you round a particular distance, keeping track of the times you do is an essential way to ensure that you’re still making progress.

But every once in a while, maybe just once every couple of months, try going for a run that’s purely for fun. You might be surprised at how much of a lift it gives you.

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