Notes from “The Happy Runner: Love the Process, Get Faster, Run Longer” by David and Megan Roche
The Happy Runner: Love the Process, Get Faster, Run Longer by David and Megan Roche was March’s Athletic Bookworm pick and I have to say, it was a really fun, interesting read—the first half of the book is all about the mental side of running, with bits and pieces from the Roche’s running careers as well as those of the athletes that they coach sprinkled in. That half is, I think, worth reading for ANY endurance athlete, not just runners. The second half is more runner-specific, as a book on running should be, and it was full of really practical, actionable advice. I’ve been working with David for a few months now as I train for more ultras, and reading the science and reasoning behind his training has been really cool because I get to see it in real life on my training plan but then read the logic behind it in the book.
I think even if I wasn’t working with him, I’d be taking a TON from it. I have so many notes that it was almost impossible to pick my favorite moments, but here were a few of my favorite pearls of wisdom:
Magic in the Mundane
Not every day is race day, not every day will be the most amazing scenic run that you’ve ever done. It’s about simply enjoying each moment, even the boring ones. Yesterday, I looped the same trail 3 times because it was the only dry section and it was not a nice trail—just a straight out and back. And I still smiled through it. “The goal of a happy runner is developing a perspective that allows you to find the magic in the mundane. If you run enough to get anywhere close to your potential, the daily act of running becomes mundane by definition… Kurt Vonnegut’s more famous quotes. ‘I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’ ‘ It’s about pausing along the way to appreciate the mundane.”
The Cold Hard Truth
Ultimately, while racing is great and getting a good result is super fun, it just doesn’t matter THAT much. And that’s important to remember. “No one gives a crap about your marathon PR,” they write. “No one cares how many races you have run or how well you placed. Even if you win the biggest race of the world, you’ll find out that the few people who do care about that have the collective memory of a family of fruit flies.”
Megan’s, written on the to-do list whiteboard: “Be weird. Be you. Love what you do each day.”
“Affirmations work. Develop yours, and write them down, emphasizing that no matter what, you are enough. Start by getting out a pen and a sticky note. First, write down three affirmations that describe the person and runner you strive to be. Second, after the ooey-gooey, sweet-as-sugar affirmations, get a bit spicier. On another sticky note, write down your long-term running goals. Dream really big. Putting your wildest aspirations out in the open is the first step to making them a reality. Every six months, reevaluate your goals, scrap the old sticky notes, and write new ones.”
I’ll share mine eventually, so check my Instagram for that… But this tip is one of my favorites. At the ENCXQuest with Ellen Noble, we all went around and shared our Big Scary Goals, and it was one of the most inspiring moments of the whole camp for all of us. I’d love to see that continue on a daily basis.
Run Consistent, Run Easy, Run Fast
“Smooth is fast. That’s the mantra to use when learning to run fast in a sustainable way. To make smooth fast, you have to make a complex skill take less effort… Consistent training is the most important part of development as a runner. Run lots, mostly easy, not too much, all while working on smooth speed with strides and hills. That is the cake.”
The SWAP (David and Megan’s coaching business/team) philosophy to training is super simple to write, super hard to put into play when you’re used to grinding miles out. I’ve been learning to run easy, peppering in moments of fast, compared to my previous casual run training that consisted of putting out moderately hard miles for an hour or so and calling it good. It’s been really interesting to get specific, and I’m finding I actually enjoy running hard now that I’m truly running easy.
Miles Vs Stress
“The body doesn’t know miles. It knows stress. Adjust your training based on stress and don’t mimic the training of someone living a different life.” I LOVE THIS. I’ve had a few expert coaches on the podcast and in articles say similar things: Basically, overtraining can happen at 4 hours of training per week or 24 hours of training per week. It depends entirely on who you, specifically, are as an athlete and what’s going on in your life. SO good to remember this.
You Are Enough
“You are enough NO MATTER WHAT. All-caps seems excessive, like we are shouting at you about happiness (thereby decreasing your happiness), but it’s necessary to underscore the central thesis of the whole book,” the Roches write at the beginning of the book, and I thought it was a fitting way to wrap this up. It’s a great message to remember everyday, and one that we’ve been trying to underscore more lately on the podcast as we talk to people who aren’t always making it to the podium. It’s important to remember that running and any endurance sport are great, but they don’t ultimately define you as a person. Whether you win or lose, you are enough.
About The Happy Runner: “Authors David and Megan Roche believe that you can’t reach your running potential without consistency and joyful daily adventures that lead to long-term health and happiness. Guided by their personal experiences and coaching expertise, they point out the mental and emotional factors that will help you learn exactly how to become a happy runner and achieve your personal best. Following the “some work, all play” approach, The Happy Runner introduces the three commandments of happy running and teaches you how to balance the effort of running with the simple joy of the activity.”