Is Running Boring?

How I keep from going insane with boredom on my long runs.

Tips and Tricks to Stave Off Boredom

One of the most common complaints that I hear from new runners is that running is just “too boring.” It’s a shame, because this complaint often leads to new runners abandoning the hobby altogether.

Sure, it’s easy to stay entertained during a race or a tough interval session, but how can you keep from going crazy during hour-long solo runs? For some runners, these long runs are just excruciatingly boring.

Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of “tips and tricks” to help make running more exciting. Many of these are sworn to by new and experienced runners alike. I’m going to share these for anyone who might not have heard them, but then I’ll turn to my own, rather different approach.

  • Listening to music — Many runners find that listening to music keeps their runs more interesting. It can even provide some additional benefits like boosting your adrenaline and helping you keep a steady cadence.
  • Listening to podcasts/audiobooks — For runners that find even music to be too boring, podcasts and audiobooks could be the solution. You’re essentially double tasking by using your running time to listen to something new.
  • Running with friends — If you get bored running alone, bring a friend to talk with and stay entertained. Keeping a conversation going will also help you stick with an easy running pace. In the worst case scenario, you’ll at least be bored together.
  • Visit new trails — I love exploring new trails around my city. It’s a great excuse to visit somewhere new. Adding variety to the surfaces you run on can also be good for your body.
  • People/nature watch — Many runners keep an eye out for interesting happenings along the trail. Learning to spot birds or recognize the local plants can give your run an added purpose.

An Alternative Approach

Each of the tips above stem from one basic strategy: finding something interesting to think about. My typical approach to staying entertained is actually just the opposite.

Unlike runners who get bored easily, I find running endlessly fun. I think the reason for this is because I embrace the monotony of the hobby.

Instead of trying to give myself interesting distractions, I actually try as hard as possible not to think about anything at all.

The first mile or so of my run, I’m typically worrying about work or brainstorming ideas of what I might write. Eventually though, this active thinking fades away. I start to just focus on my running form and speed, and soon I stop thinking about that as well.

From then on, I spend most of my run in a fairly meditative state — not really thinking about much of anything. Occasionally something will happen which snaps me out of it: a bug flying into my face or arriving at a traffic light. As soon as these distractions pass though, I slip right back into mindlessness.

I find this an incredibly peaceful way to relax. It’s exhausting to constantly think hard every waking moment. Shutting off my mind for a bit is the perfect way to reset.

It’s especially great for someone like me who suffers from a lot of anxiety in my day-to-day life. Escaping from anxious thoughts for an hour can bring immense relief.

I used to think I was alone in feeling this way, until reading the brilliant book “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” by Haruki Murakami. He similarly runs without thinking about much in particular.

Since then, I’ve seen many others express similar ideas. Most recently, I read an interesting post in the running forum on Reddit in which the user described feeling “addicted to the simplicity” of running, in which thoughts disappear. You can read that here.

I don’t believe that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to stay entertained on runs. For the runners who love listening to music or chatting with a friend, I’d say more power to them.

For the rest of us though, running can be a great reminder that not every slow-paced moment of our lives needs a distraction.

I don’t need to constantly be thinking about something to stay happy. In fact, spending my entire day deep in thought tends to have just the opposite effect. Instead, I enjoy the quiet solitude of a mindless run.

Every once in a while, a break from thinking is just what I need.

I’m a lawyer and teacher from North Carolina. I write about sobriety, mental health, running, and more. Buy me a “coffee” at ko-fi.com/benyaclark.

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