Fun is a word associated with running not often enough.

Why? For starters, runners tend to be very serious about their training, about their times, about their race schedules, about what they eat, wear, and drink. We don’t want to get injured and are constantly looking at improving. Where’s the room for fun?

Plus, consider that running is hard work. Yes, it is a pursuit that can be enjoyed, and the thrill of success and achievement are not to be underrated. But fun?  Nah.

Here’s the problem. As runners, we need to lighten up. Surely there is some psychological benefit of letting go of a tedious routine occasionally. It might make you faster in the long run, avoid injury and approach workouts with a better attitude, and better yet, make you smile.

Here are some strategies to add some fun into your running.

Odd races: It’s not about time all the time when you toe the line (honestly, when I wrote that I did not mean for it to sound like some rhyming maxim). Some races are designed to be for fun. Consider these examples:

  1. Undies run! Running in your underwear would likely be brave and fun. There are undies runs that raise money for charity including clothes for the homeless and those that raise money for medical causes. It’s a good cause, kind of silly, and likely a bit chilly, but sounds like fun.
  2. Costume runs: I’d be willing to bet that running in a superhero cape will seriously slow you down. Remember Edna Mode’s line from “The Incredibles”? “No capes!” Anyway, races where you dress up in costume, say your favorite superhero, are more about fun than finish times.
  3. Beer Mile: These races are gaining in popularity as some serious runners are taking up the challenge of running a mile with four beer stops along the way. Chugging four beers in what is likely under 10 minutes is by no means healthy and it is not something to pursue on any regular basis, bit would it be fun? If you like beer and running it sure sounds like it.
  4. Color runs: If getting power blasted with dyed food color during a run is your idea of fun – or maybe it’s about adding some life to an old t-shirt – these rainbow-themed 5Ks might be a good choice.
  5. Food extremes: Well, if we are going to include the beer mile you may as well find a food-themed run which combines donuts or other food and then running (or waddling) the same distance back.

Run a race with a friend who is much slower than you. Be a partner to that runner and take yourself and your own goals out of the equation. It’s fun and good karma.

Ditch the watch. Add in a run sometimes where you leave your tracking device behind and just run. Smile at the birds and the cars as they fly by – and ignore those weird looks from drivers.

Find a scenic route that breaks up your routine.

Beach runs, trail runs, park runs – all of these can add some fun to your running schedule if you can put your brain aside for a half hour and let your eyes and heart enjoy the view. When you are done, feel the smile coming and let it happen.