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Sarah Bowen Shea: How to Add Some Fun to Your Run

Whether you’re covering 8 or 18 miles for your marathon training runs, you want to enjoy the journey. Here are 15 ways to add fun to your run with suggestions culled from the Another Mother Runner community.


Have a Companion (or Two or Three)

If you don’t have a partner training for the same race, have a pal join you for part of your training excursion. Michelle, a mother runner who ran Boston this year, often runs seven or eight miles solo, then finishes her final 12 or 13 miles with friends. Or break your 20-miler into four 5-mile loops, recruiting different friends to join you for each 5-miler.

Plan a Ride-Along

Your children, partner or friends can bike alongside you for all or part of your journey. JoAnn and her Twin Cities posse often bike beside friends, acting as a Sherpa, carrying iced Nuun, bananas or GU Energy Chews.

Forego Human Companionship

Bring your dog along for part of the run, and then drop him off at home partway through the run. Or try the reverse. Alison, a runner in Utah, has used her dog to haul her through the last few miles when she’s flagging.

Start and/or End Someplace Fun

On a hot day last summer, two pals and I pushed through 14 miles. Moving us along was the thought of taking a cooling dip at the lake where we began our run. A post-run swim isn’t always feasible, but consider finishing up at a waffle house or brew pub. (Carbs, right?)

“Save” a Playlist for Long Runs Only

Or take a tip from Alison, who makes the most of long runs by listening to a Pandora station on her phone instead of tunes she’s purchased. (I do this with Spotify.)

Get Engrossed in Audio Books

The Goldfinch will carry you through scores of miles.

Listen to a Podcast

Hey, here’s a podcast I think you’d really like! Or use your run as an excuse to learn something new. No offense, but non-running friends may appreciate discussing something other than running!

Hand Out High Fives

Make it a mission to high five at least 10 strangers on your run. You’ll make someone’s day and take your mind off your miles.

Exercise Your Brain

When training for the Twin Cities Marathon, JoAnn listened to the same song over and over again, trying to decipher lyrics. She tried to unravel “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z, but we’d now dig into any Sia or David Guetta song. Or pick a category each mile—Countries; Girl Names Beginning with “M,” or Taylor Swift Songs—and mentally list all the options you can think of.

Let Your Mind Run as Free as Your Feet

As one mother runner admitted, “Sometimes having a blank slate of time in front of you is a good thing. It’s amazing the places your mind can wander to when you let it.”

Take a Picture

Michelle, the Boston qualifier, whips out her phone to snap shots along her route. “I’m fortunate to run in some really beautiful spots, and it’s easy to take that for granted when you’re out there slogging along for 3+ hours,” writes the Rhode Island resident. “But stopping for a minute to appreciate your surroundings is a nice way to take a breather and remind yourself that you really truly are lucky to be doing this.”

Change Up Your Speed

Start slow for 3 miles, speed up closer to race pace for 6 miles (or 2 or 3) and then drop back down to easy pace again.

Ask Someone if She (or He) Wants Company

One gal told of her GPS battery dying during a recent tempo run. She was on a well-traveled trail, so she caught up with a high school boys’ track team and asked them if they could pace her for an 8:15 mile. (Resourceful woman!) During her cooldown, she asked a skirt-clad runner if she could run with her, “because it felt weird to run three feet to her left and play the passing game. It was lovely having someone to gab with.”

Change Your Environs

Almost every runner I asked said longer distances are so much easier to tackle when you get to check out new scenery. Last weekend, a pal in New Hampshire, “did 14 miles on a long-drooled-over country road,” while her oldest son was at a birthday party in the area. She ran an hour out and an hour back to avoid getting lost, “but it was great to see different houses and scenery along the way.”

Get Caught

Make a plan for a family outing a certain number of minutes (or hours) after you leave home, suggests the creative N.H. runner. “You run in the direction your family will be heading and they will ‘catch’ you in the car on the way to the destination. I like the mystery of imagining how far I’ll get before my ride comes along.” Two helpful hints she relayed to us: have your family bring along a bag of non-stinky clothes (and maybe some Action Wipes); and don’t have the final destination be a wedding or fancy restaurant!