I think boredom is greatly misunderstood. ‘Being bored’ is often listed as a top reason new runners quit running. But I’ve come to enjoy running (at least in part) because it’s boring, not in spite of it.
Harsh Reality #1: Running Is (or at least can be) Boring
Running is putting one foot in front of the other for hours on end. No TV, no Facebook, no Twitter.
Just you, your thoughts and your running shoes.
Endless repetitive (exhausting) motion for hours on end.
Harsh Reality #2: You Will Get Bored
At some point during some run, you will be bored. Maybe only occasionally. Maybe during every run. I’ve never met a runner who didn’t get occasionally bored.
Don’t fight it.
Expect it, accept it and move on.
What Boredom Doesn’t Mean
Something to know right out of the gate: getting bored on a run says nothing about you. The activity itself (can be) boring and repetitious.
Being bored on a run DOES NOT mean you:
- Are a bad runner
- Don’t enjoy running
- Are doing anything wrong
Why You Need To Face Your Boredom…
A quick Google search will bring up endless posts about how to prevent or minimize mid-run boredom. But there comes a point when it can become harder to constantly distract yourself than it is to just get used to it.
I’m suggesting something different: embrace the boredom.
Part of training, especially marathon training, is getting used to suffering and difficult runs. Not so they don’t happen, but so you can keep going when it gets hard.
Same with boredom. Training gets you used to boredom. Not so you’ll magically never be bored again, but so it will be no big deal when it does. With a little practice, you can get so used to boredom that it comes full circle: you won’t be bored when you are bored.
What takes you from being a good runner to a great runner isn’t that you never get bored, it’s learning to be OK with being bored.
As my mother says, what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.
I promise, being bored won’t kill you. I’ve done many, many, boring long runs and I have lived to tell the tale
…Even If It’s Is Scary
It can be scary and uncomfortable to have nothing to do but listen to your thoughts. We aren’t used to it.
In this day in age, we are rarely without distractions. In our non-running lives, the second we get bored we pull out our phones and have a world of endless distraction.
On the run, it is you and your thoughts.
There is nowhere to hide.
That is (or at least can be) scary and is new to many people.
How To Deal With Boredom
OK, so even if you accept my premise and want to embrace the boredom running can create, where do you start?
Go Meta – Ponder Being Bored
Bust boredom on the run by contemplating your boredom.
Why are you bored?
Are you bored because of the activity itself, or by the lack of other stimulation?
If it’s the running itself causing the boredom: consider why you wanted to start running in the first place. What are some of the positive aspects of running? Focus on the aspects of running you enjoy.
If it’s the lack of other stimulation: consider where else in your life you have similar feelings. Do you ever allow yourself to just think your thoughts uninterrupted? Are there circumstances where you are OK with being still and unstimulated? How are they different from running?
Use It – Moving Meditation
Being bored on a run is a key step to using running as a moving meditation.
Use your run as a chance to check in with yourself and your body. How your muscles feel, how you are breathing.
Be aware of your body, how it moves through space. To quote Christopher McDougall in Born To Run
“Relax enough [into the run], and your body becomes so familiar with the cradle-rocking rhythm that you almost forget you’re moving… You have to listen closely to the sound of your own breathing… and ask yourself, honestly and often, exactly how you feel. What could be more sensual than paying exquisite attention to your own body?”
Use It – Stokes Of Insight
Do you ever have some great insight while in the shower? That is often a result of letting your unconscious or subconscious mind do its thing.
The exact same thing can happen on the run, but only if you are running without distractions.
Ask yourself a question and go out for a run. Let yourself be bored. I guarantee you will have at least one new insight on the question before you get home, even if you never consciously ponder the question.
Prime your thinking and let your mind wander. You just may surprise yourself.
My best ideas and brainstorms come when I am bored on a run. (pro tip: have paper or a note taking app accessible – I’ve also lost many great ideas on the run when I wasn’t ready to capture my thoughts), but the magic only happens when you are ‘bored’ and you pay attention to your thoughts.