Smile like you mean it

My time in my first half marathon was a little bit of a shock. I had trained to run 11 minute miles and was more than prepared to run slower than that. When I crossed the finish line minute miles. It’s a PR that stood for six years.

I spent years trying to break that PR. I followed training plans. I stuck to paces. I beat myself up.

I didn’t break the PR until I ran a race that was light and fun. I laughed with people I knew and strangers I had just met. I chased friends never expecting to catch them. I smiled the whole time. I think I only took it seriously in the last couple miles when I realized how close I was to PR pace.

The common denominator with both those races was how happy I felt as I ran them.

I spent that first half marathon not caring how fast I went. I thanked every volunteer I saw because I realized that it helped me stay positive. I cheered on other runners as they passed me or as I passed them. I was in awe of the gorgeous weather for February.

After the fact I realized that some of what helped me go fast that day was that I purposefully was doing things that made me smile. I think smiling helped to keep me positive the whole way.

When people ask me for advice on how to run faster. I usually tell them that they need to smile.

Turns out I may have been giving good advice. A recent article and outside online was touting the benefits of smiling on running economy. Smiling while you run may help you relax and run more efficiently.

I mean it’s not that different from when we were trained to minimize our facial expressions while rowing full speed. Those facial contortions were not adding to the load being pulled. I felt my body respond when I focused on a relaxed face.

Even if the research is not complete yet, What does it hurt to find reasons to smile while you’re working out. Think of that indulgent meal you’re going to have, or that relaxing bubble bath. You might just find your way to a new PR.

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