So I'll have fun, fun, fun...
This column by Simon Gear first appeared in Runners World SA in June of 2007
I’m fundamentally lazy. In fact I’d go as far as to say that of the sub-set of ‘3:30 in the morning’-rising, multiple job-holding, ‘2 kids and a house’-missioning guys, I am easily the laziest. Well, was. About a year ago, I was out running and came across a family on mountain bikes, meandering along the river path on what was clearly a social ride. I had to confess my admiration for families who are prepared to engage in such activity of a Sunday morning when any sensible person is in bed with the paper and a bacon roll.
And so what if I was out there, too? First up, as Mrs Gear will testify, I’m not sensible. Second, the primary reason that I was out there was the old fear and loathing thing. Fear of that bit of every race when all the work you’ve put in boils down to that last 2 kays of red mist and loathing of what I look like in the mirror towards the end of winter when the last vestiges of summer fitness have vanished below a comfortable layer of extra helpings of oxtail and mash. Here were folk just having… fun. I shuddered and ran on.
Don’t get me wrong, I still loved running. It kept my life healthy, interesting and filled with an excellent and quirky bunch of mates. But was I always finding it fun? At the time of bumping into that family I have to admit that more often than not, I probably wasn’t. I enjoyed the Sunday morning bull sessions that passed for long runs and I certainly got a kick out of feeling fitter than most but generally my running had become a mixture of knee jarring effort and guilt edged trundling. If I wasn’t in pain, how could I justify taking time away from work and family to be out there? Looking back on it I was probably reaping the rewards of fifteen years of taking my running just a tad too seriously.
So, I went for a walk. I kid you not. I’d dropped the car off to have something expensively squeaky removed and, being dressed in office kit, walked home. I walked through the suburbs on a crisp, winter morning and it was fun. Intrigued, I started casting about for fun stuff that requires a little get up and go and began to recognise a pattern. Everything I tried: yoga, paddling, orienteering, even cycling, could very easily become all consuming and serious. But on that day they were fun, primarily because, although I wasn’t officially training, I was still out there. Far more valuable was the fact that by doing activities that weren’t obviously running training, I rediscovered the concept of the ‘fun run’. By reminding myself that every activity didn’t actually have to be logged, justified and accounted for, I remembered why I began running in the first place.
I suspect the Adventure Racing revolution might have tapped into this whole thing. I have two abiding television images of Bruce Fordyce. One is of a flying blonde demon, all power, concentration and mastery as he closed down a succession of challengers in the 80s. The other is more recent, of Bruce, David Vlok and a mildly exasperated Lisa de Speville wandering down a farm road during the Swazi Xtreme. Lisa was all power, concentration and mastery while Vlok ‘n Fordyce were singing a rude song about, I think, beer. Lisa and Bruce have both since tried to persuade me that AR is not fun at all. That it is very hardcore and tough and brutal, but I’m having none of it. The second that I have more time than kids on the weekend, I’m diving straight in. But I doubt I’d ever fall in love with it. My heart still belongs to another.