Serious Runner (Uh-Oh)

About nine years ago, I stumbled across a fine article, “10 Steps to a Hugely Successful Web 2.0 Company,” by Charlie O’Donnell.

Eric Clifton — known for colorful running garb.
Eric Clifton — known for colorful running garb.

O’Donnell made a brilliant point.

I had lunch recently with a couple of friends from a music publisher.  They were signing some bands to “incubator” deals for just a couple of songs to test the market with them.  I said, “And you’re giving those songs away for free, right?”

They nearly choked on their food.  🙂

Well, why the heck wouldn’t they?  Give a few songs away for free, generate buzz, get lots more people to buy future albums.  Seth Godin did that with his books, releasing e-books that generated buzz around hardcover sales.  Free sells.  Do you think Facebook would be Facebook if you had to pay for your smooches  like you do on Match?

Seth Godin has made a fortune giving stuff away free.

Philip Greenspun, creator of, the world’s largest website for photographers, had the same idea – give, give, give, and you’ll be happy even if the money doesn’t roll in right away. Chances are, the bucks will show up.

This is wonderful stuff. And I think it applies to training. Give, give, give, and the results will show up. So will the joy. But if you’re constantly focusing on results, you’ll knock all the fun and joy out of the moment. Just Do It. Just give.

Okay, but does this work for the pro athletes whose livelihood depends on results?

Years ago, I wrote about Eric Clifton, one of the most innovative, big-hearted runners on the planet. (See “Pedal to the Metal.”) Here’s an excerpt:

In the Sep/Oct 2004 issue of Marathon and Beyond, Clifton described how he got lost midway through the 1989 Vermont 100.

Most surprising to me was the discovery that I didn’t care, not about being off for 10 minutes or about possibly losing the lead. I was so relaxed and was enjoying the day and the effort so much that I knew then that the competition was like the icing on the cake. The cake was the simple joy that running quickly, freely, and easily can bring. I was euphoric. I felt in touch with myself and the world and connected to everything.

Clifton expressed his runner’s code:

Sometimes, when not that fit, or when I felt I needed to be competitive because much was at stake, or even when I let a fear of failure seep in, I would regress and try to run a “smart,” conservative race. All, 100 percent, resulted in dismal races — dismal times, dismal places (if I finished), and dismal feelings. Those races were not true to my nature. Sure, a lot of races I started hard in, I died, but the placing or finish is not what is important to me.

My raison d’etre for running is to run from my heart, and I have never regretted a race where that is what I did. I have never had a magical race by pacing myself. A run doesn’t even need to be a race to be magical. The excitement and competition appear to help, but mystical events can happen at any time. The only common factor in all my special runs is effort. They are all fast for me. The key is not in making myself run hard but in letting myself run hard, completely releasing the heart and soul to go. Who are the legs and feet to get in the way of the spirit?

If you exercise with a tight and constricted heart, purely for your own future purpose and reward, you’ll be severely limiting yourself, and your body will rebel. You’ll get really tight in your thinking – “This much exercise will give me this much results, and I’ll have a body that’s a really big deal. I better not do anything wrong or I won’t be big/buff/beautiful.”

Pretty soon you’ll be living logically, following Plan A and not having a lot of fun. And your body won’t like it. I’m not saying you should never work out to a plan. But I am promising that if you plan your time so you can work out enjoyably you’ll work harder.

That’s so much more effective – seriously, it works better. “I’ll exercise with an expansive heart, with a playful sense of fun.” When you work out with a heart that’s open and happy, you feel better toward the other people in your life. And your body likes that very much – believe me, this has been tested. If you doubt, go to and read the studies on how feelings of love and kindness boost health and performance.

The Heartmath research is thematically related to the studies Dean Ornish cites in his groundbreaking book Love and Survival: The Scientific Basis for the Healing Power of Intimacy, which show the powerful health-enhancing effects of feelings of love and connectedness.

This is serious stuff. And it all points to the power of not making exercise too serious.


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