Fight Boredom on Your Run

Today, I set out to complete a 10-mile training run. I finished nine miles, then quit. Well, to be more exact, I stopped. Like the scene in Forrest Gump where Tom Hanks just stopped running in the middle of the road, I stopped. My legs felt great; my stride was strong. I was breathing fine and could have gone on. So why didn’t I? In a word, boredom.

Yawning manI always wondered if this day would come. The longer my training runs get, the more time I have to occupy in my own head. Sales people call it “windshield time.” It’s that period of otherwise unproductive time between sales calls where the salesman stares out the windshield on his way to the next call. In my world, it’s the time between the start and the end of my run. Today, the moment of truth happened somewhere around mile 6. For me, it takes just over an hour to get that far, but on today’s run it may as well have been four hours – felt the same.

After running past the 500th identical row of grapevines in the vineyards and glaring into the unchanging horizon (in all directions), I felt the drone of boredom set in. When the thought first entered my head, it actually snapped me out of my runner’s zen, and for that I became upset. Like that moment when your internal alarm clock wakes you up way too early and you can’t get back to sleep, all I could think about was boredom. I couldn’t get my zen back. It occurred to me that the only thing that had changed in the past hour was the painfully slow, ambiguous, random cloud formations above the mind-numbing, mid-day horizon.

So, I left the serenity of the vineyards and finished my run on the road where  the unpredictable, gravel-crunching whoosh of a car approaching from behind, and the momentary glimpse of approaching motorists could at least keep me occupied for the last few miles. I even found myself randomly putting up a quick hand-wave to approaching cars to try and elicit one in return. I turned OFF my ipod, mostly because I have cycled through my playlist ad nauseum, and that in itself has become boring. Running on the road, waving at strangers and not listening to music were today’s attempts to beat the boredom. And when I couldn’t stand it any more, I ended my run.

I’ve heard that some people listen to books-on-tape when their music gets boring. Others listen to a movie, instead of watching it, letting their mind fill in the blanks. A friend- normally a solitary track runner – occasionally runs with a friend on a chip trail to keep it interesting. I’ve read that it helps to count things: birds, animals, footsteps, breaths, other runners, and even roadkill (huh?) I count my teeth with my tongue, although that has more to do with my obsessive compulsive nature, and less to do with boredom. 

I didn’t like ending today’s otherwise satisfying run in the shadow of incredible boredom. And I don’t want to end tomorrow’s in the same way. So, I turn to you.

What tricks do you have in your runner’s tool belt to fight boredom on your run? 

Do you run on a track? A treadmill? Pavement? Chip-trails? 


Editor's note: Photo, courtesy Creative Commons

8 thoughts on “Fight Boredom on Your Run

  1. I can usually find a playlist on my iPod that I haven’t heard lately that will keep me involved. Maybe even play some of the music my teen kids like, instead of the usual Classic Rock.

    But I like everything you tried, Chuck. Music on. Music off. Changing the route.

    But my favorite solution to boredom is running with a group of runners. I say a group rather than a buddy because you’ll usually find one person in the group who runs at your desired pace. Your buddy might be much faster or slower than you, which makes it no fun for either of you. I’d probably still be a once a year runner if not for the group I run with a couple of times a week. Then, on your solo runs, you really appreciate the solitude and ability to run at your own pace.

  2. I have the same issue sometimes. I try varying where I run and listening to new music. One thing I’m going to try this month is to finally get some variety in my runs – intervals and such. I’m even thinking about making one run a week a full workout – stopping every half mile or so to throw in some burpees and such.

  3. I’ve gotta be honest, I never had a boredom problem in all my years running. In fact, I love to let my mind wander off to another world while I’m pounding the trails. Sometimes I wear my iPod, sometimes I choose the serenity of listening to the wind and the birds and nature. Maybe I’m a weird one, I don’t know. If I am, I’m glad.

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