Zen and the Art of Fun Running

Wasabi

Wasabi

Ellen has written 24 posts on Salty Running.

Mid-pack racer and social running enthusiast. Full-time fitness specialist and part-time running store employee extraordinaire. Certified running gear fashionista and lover of laughing, lattes, and color coordination.

fun

Sometimes even the most serious runners need to push the button. (Photo credit: hodgers)

So, remember that girl who ran the NYC Half and took a #selfie featuring an unsuspecting hot dude every mile? Don’t get us wrong, we thought that was totes creative and adorable, and we certainly salute her mad skills in the ways of taking consistently flattering action-shot selfies, but our girl Wasabi (me) has really taken it to the next level when it comes to elaborate mid-race photo shenanigans. I ran the Rock n’ Roll New Orleans Half Marathon as a “fun run” and put together a baller comprehensive guide for pulling off the ultimate fun run experience.

Read it and weep, selfie girl!

Preparing for Your Fun Run

First things first. Let’s talk preparation. Your fun running success hinges on being in the proper state of mind to relax, have fun, and just enjoy running for the sake of moving your body. This means letting go of the usual stressful, high-pressure, adrenaline pumping pre-race thoughts of things like time goals and pacing strategies, qualifying for this standard, running faster than that person, and so on. Trust me friends, this is easier said than done. For best results, I recommend completely throwing your typical pre-race prep routine out the window. By doing a bunch of bizarre stuff that you would never in a million years do before any sort of race you were taking even remotely seriously, you can effectively trick your brain into turning off that tunnel vision, eyes-on-the-prize, super-ODC-about-everything pre-race mode that we all know so well. I found the following activities particularly helpful for keeping me calm, cool, and not at all worked up about my upcoming “race”…

  • Walking-intensive Sight-seeing.

    Kicking off an epic 6 mile+ walking tour of  the parts of New Orleans between our hotel and the expo with this amazeballs window reflection selfie. It's ok if you're jealous.

    Kicking off an epic 6 mile+ walking tour of the parts of New Orleans between our hotel and the expo with this baller window reflection selfie. It’s ok if you’re jealous.

  • Enjoying Local Cuisine with Reckless Abandon.

    As you read on you will learn that you'll be making many stops on your fun run. What's on more for the bathroom? Crawfish ettouffee FTW!

    As you read on you will learn that you’ll be making many stops on your fun run. What’s on more for the bathroom? Crawfish ettouffee FTW!

  • Expo Shenanigans. (OK, so I would probably do this one at any race I signed up for, even if I was looking to PR my face off.) After all, you spent like a bazillion dollars of your hard-earned money on signing up for and traveling to this race so you might as well get your money’s worth by taking advantage of every silly photo-op, ridiculous interactive activity, and every single shred of free swag available at the expo!

    Turn off your competitive pre-race brain and access your silly side by doing ALL THE RIDICULOUS THINGS at the expo.

    Turn off your competitive pre-race brain and access your silly side by doing ALL THE RIDICULOUS THINGS at the expo.

  • Making Inspiring and Supportive Signs for Your Friends who are Running the Race Competitively.

    We spent hours crafting these highly supportive and inspirational signs for Sarah 'cause she's our #BFFL.

    We spent hours crafting these highly supportive and inspirational signs for Sarah and transported them all the way from NC  ’cause she’s our #BFFL.

  • Day Drinking. (This one is especially clutch. Just remember that day drinking, and the drinking of alcoholic beverages at all other times of day as well, are illegal for persons under the age of 21.  Please always day drink responsibly.)
After all the excessive walking, sign-making, and expos shenanigans we commenced the day drinking with these delicious and very classy Pimm's Cups.

After all the excessive walking, sign-making, and expo shenanigans we commenced the day drinking with these delicious and very classy Pimm’s Cups.

Day drinking, round 2. Just to make absolutely sure that no one is going to accidentally take tomorrow's run too seriously.

Day drinking, round 2. Just to make absolutely sure that no one is going to accidentally take tomorrow’s run too seriously.

You may want to further convince yourself that your fun run is really no big deal by choosing or creating for yourself a perfectly ridiculous outfit. Something that emphasizes fabulousness, but not so much speed. Something that makes it absolutely impossible for you to take yourself seriously when you are wearing it. I personally opted for and highly recommend a really glittery-ass tutu, although elaborate decorative head-wear and/or wildly patterned tights also seem to work well.

I know it's kind of hard to tell from this pic, but our tutus are really effing glittery.  So much so, in fact, that when I took my tutu and my shorts off for my post-race shower it looked like I was still wearing pants made of glitter. That's how you know if it's glittery enough.

I know it’s kind of hard to tell from this pic, but our tutus are really effing glittery. So much so, in fact, that when I took mine, along with my shorts off for my post-race shower it looked like I was still wearing pants made of glitter.

Get Your “Fun Face” on for The Big Day

Race day is here and it’s time to really get into the Fun Zone! Arrive at the race site early enough to allow time for a silly pre-race photo shoot. I am fairly certain it is a scientific fact that taking ridiculous photos (especially synchronized jumping photos) instantly increases the amount of fun you are having exponentially. And for the record, I have historically found the pre-race photo shoot to be a highly effective get-pumped-up strategy for “A” races as well as fun runs. Additionally, you may want to include some sort of dance party/ sing-a-long and/or twerking in your warm-up routine. I also really enjoy chatting up other random runners as a pre-race ritual in fun run and competitive race settings a like.

Obviously, everyone was very interested in and impressed by my patented twerking warm-up routine.

Obviously, everyone was very interested in and impressed by my patented twerking warm-up routine.

Also, don’t forget to bring some way of documenting all the fun you are about to be having! After all, you are moments away for the most fun running experience of your life and all of social media and posterity needs to know about it! Kara and I used a small, inexpensive, water-proof point-and-shoot camera to capture every minute detail of our fun run extravaganza. One could easily use a smart phone as well. Just remember that your iPhone’s warranty does not cover water damage, and sweating your iPhone to death while fun running definitely counts as water damage.

Once the Gun Goes Off…

  • Stop and have your picture made with all the funny signs, thematically dressed spectators, bands, and inflatables. This part will be particularly easy if you are fun running a Rock n’ Roll Series race, since they provide some form of on-course entertainment every couple of miles and, at least in my limited experience, seem to be well spectated by particularly friendly people who are also highly creative sign-makers. We made several thousand photo stops along the course that day in NOLA. Here are a few of my favorites…
    Jazz hands for the jazz band.

    Jazz hands for the jazz band.

    Those people wearing ALL THE MARDI GRAS STUFF.

    Those people wearing ALL THE MARDI GRAS STUFF.

    Hey Girl. You're so bringing sexy back in that glittery-ass tutu.

    Hey Girl. You’re SO bringing sexy back in that glittery-ass tutu.

    As Kara said in her fun run re-cap, (which you can read here) we had to stop because of the irony.

    As Kara said in her fun run re-cap, (which you can read here) “We had to stop because of the irony.”

    Um, seriously, references to "That's what she said" AND not wearing underpants?!? Looks like these guys knew I was coming!

    Um, seriously, references to “That’s what she said” AND not wearing underpants?!? Looks like these guys knew I was coming!

    A cardinal rule of fun running: All large inflatables must be posed in front of ... Especially if said is a giant rock star playing a shoe guitar.

    A cardinal rule of fun running: All large inflatables must be posed in front of … Especially if said inflatable is a giant rock star playing a shoe guitar.

    My very best Michael Flatley Lord of the Dance impression, because I'm just that awesome.

    My very best Michael Flatley Lord of the Dance impression, because I’m just that awesome.

     

  • High Five All the Little Kids:  

    photo4 (1)

    I make it a point to high-five at least some little kids at any race I do, but in fun running it is a requirement to seek out and high-five ALL OF THEM. Especially the ones that are wearing tutus just like yours.

  • Take All the Outside Aid. A major highlight for us. Just remember as you are chasing your next big PR or age group win that this technically against rules. But all is fair in love and fun running, and if you’re doing it right there will be no age group placement, podium finish, or qualifying standard in question for you today, so soak up every morsel of beer, donuts, king cake, and jello shots you can while you have the chance.

    photo2 (2)

    We’re fairly certain that this donuts and beer aid station was created especially for us!

photo3 (2)

Perhaps our very favorite fun run stop of all, king cake and jello shots! #onlyinNOLA

*Obligatory Disclaimer: Taking jello shots from strangers (especially in New Orleans) is generally a bad idea. Don’t try this at home, kids! #YOLO

  • Thank All the Volunteers: Again, this is something we should try our best to do at any and all races. Volunteers who wake up obscenely early to direct traffic for your safety, make sure you know where you are going on the course, and cheerfully hand you water, Gatorade, and Gu for nothing more than a free t-shirt and a pat on the back are truly the dream-weavers who make events like the one that you are fun running right now a reality. Naturally, they deserve all of your gratitude, but sometimes we runners find it difficult to express our thanks because we are just trying not to bonk, barf or otherwise fall apart on the way to our next great race result. This should never be the case when it comes to fun running. All fun running should be done 100% within one’s comfort zone to allow for showering each and every race volunteer on the course with the profuse thank-yous that they deserve.

Use Proper Fun Running Etiquette

  • Be Careful with Sudden Stopping/ Veering Off the Course. I am a little ashamed to admit that I had to learn this one the hard way. True to my severe ADHD form, I caught myself careening recklessly off the course to be photographed with this awesome sign or that hilariously dressed spectator, bringing runners behind me to screeching halts to avoid crashing into me and creating massive pile-ups in my wake on several occasions. Not cool. My most sincere apologies to anyone who was unfortunate enough to get caught up in my path of destruction. Remember that one runner’s fun run odyssey may be many other runners’ big, awesome goal race. A good fun runner should always go above and beyond to be encouraging, supportive, and above all, courteous to their fellow runners. This means taking care not to cut others off and giving fair warning when veering off the course, and re-entering race traffic flow as well. No one wants to be THAT fun runner who is making the run less fun for everyone else!
  • Never Ever Stop Your Watch! As a matter of fact, your fun run would probably be an awesome place NOT to wear your watch, but if you are a to-the-death Garmin-or-it-didn’t -happen runner as I am, well friends, you best keep that watch running no matter how long you are standing still in your quest for the prefect selfie of you and the guy the jester hat handing out the jello shots. The race clock won’t stop for your various photo ops, snack breaks, and mid-race dance parties, so neither does your watch. Remind yourself again that your fun running experience is not about time or average pace. It’s about becoming re-acquainted with the notion that you love running because it’s fun and celebrating the people whom you love running with. Then after the race, march yourself to the nearest computer or mobile device and proudly claim your much-slower-than-usual half marathon time on Athlinks. I’m fairly certain that my fun running half marathon time is the slowest 13.1 result attached to my name thus far, but is it also one my very favorite race memories, and a tremendous PR in fun. And that is why everyone should try fun running at least once!
Celebrating fun running success, and huge new marathon PRs as we warm up for Bourbon Street with bottomless mimosas courtesy of Competitor Group's VIP tent. #werekindofabigdeal

Celebrating fun running success, and huge new marathon PRs as we warm up for Bourbon Street with bottomless mimosas courtesy of Competitor Group’s VIP tent. #werekindofabigdeal

I  hope this little guide to successful fun running has served as a reminder to you that there is value in not taking every single run/ race super-seriously, and that a little shift in focus and taking a break to smell the roses (or in our case, the king cake) does the mind and body good!

Much love to all the awesome, hilarious people, old and new friends alike, who made our weekend in NOLA memorable, and cheers to many more fun runs to come!

Have YOU ever run a race just for fun? Is it something you would consider doing? Tell your thoughts, for better or for worse, in the comments!

12 Responses to “Zen and the Art of Fun Running”

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  1. Allspice Allspice says:

    I love this! No, I’ve never run a race for fun, and it’s something I desperately want (need) to do. I remember when I started racing, and had no preconceived ideas of what finish time would be acceptable. I loved every race, and really want to get back to that. Your pics are fabulous!

  2. Haha love all the pics! Looks like you PRd in donuts and beer consumed during a race!

  3. Chamomile says:

    Hooray for NOLA! (and you!) Looks like a blast. Do you think fun runs like this are going to be a regular part of your race calendar, or just a once-in-a-while thing? Definitely makes me want to try it (especially while I’m down here in Louisiana! These folks know how to party!)

  4. I had fun just looking at YOU having fun!
    I think my next half marathon is going to be just this! FUN FUN FUN!!! :)

  5. Juls says:

    Your photos are 1000X better than hers. In fact, she look possessed in hers. Guys: Watch out. LOL. It looks like fun. I might have to take up running a and racing again. Back healing, and I’ve been watching the runners pass with a new sense of longing. #iWILLrunagain

  6. I love this! I don’t do this enough, but it’s one of my reasons for doing runDisney races. They’re easy to just have fun and not worry about time. Especially, if you’re doing Goofy or Dopey and need to take it easy just to survive the challenge.

  7. Amy in MN says:

    I am so competitive, it never dawned on me to pay for a race and then to just run for fun. That’s so effing awesome. I love it. Hilarious photos; great post!

  8. Jess says:

    Hahah love this!! Also, super timely for me – I’m running the Paris marathon “for fun” next weekend. I was initially planning on training for the race, but I fell and broke my foot in December. I wasn’t able to run again until mid-February. Since then I’ve worked up to … one 16-miler. I’ve never done a marathon on this little training but the doctor said I could do it if I want, and I already had the flights booked so… Paris fun run!

  9. Nicole says:

    Great article!!! I really loved it and it is so true and so refreshing :) Thanks so much

  10. Mint says:

    This is gold. Love it. We totally need to run a fun run together. :)

  11. runwiki says:

    I had fun just looking through all of the photos! Doing a race like this is so great- I ran RnRLA just like this-for fun way better than suffering! ha!

  12. Looks like you had a blast! I never thought I could run a race for fun, but yesterday I found myself at the starting line of a half-marathon that I was undertrained for and knew that I’d destroy my legs if I went for a good time. I ended up running without any kind of timing device, purposely started in the back of the pack, and took a few selfie breaks along the route. I finished the race 20 minutes slower than my PR (which was just this past October), but it was honestly one of the best race experiences I’ve ever had. For the first time ever I got to truly enjoy the scenery. I will be doing a lot more “fun running” in the future!

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