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Archive for November, 2017

I recently read an article on Outside that smiling makes you a more efficient runner. The article went on to say that “a hard effort makes you frown, and, conversely, frowning might make an effort feel harder—and smiling might make it feel easier“. Seems reasonable. Apparently, a study was even conducted, which pretty much proved that smiling does make you a more efficient runner.

I liked what I was reading and wondered if that was indeed true. Not that I am doubting science, but I just wondered anyway, as a personal experience. I thought about my past races, especially when Julia and Joel cheered for me or when others cheered for me… I feel that their presence and inspiration definitely helped but I was unsure about the smiling part. I do tend to smile a bunch if I see someone who I know, especially Julia or Joel. Did that brief period of smiling really help? I definitely think that their cheer was a distraction, which helped reset my thoughts at that particular point in time. But the actual smile… I was skeptical. So I decided to conduct my own experiment (because that scientific study did not convince me… ha!).

The article could not have been written at a more perfect time… I had a race coming up. This past Saturday I raced the 10k option of the Mendon Trail Run, which took place in Mendon Ponds Park. Joel ran it too. The weather changed a bit drastically and it was a chilly morning so I did not want to get to the start line too early. But once at the start line, there was no pep talk from the organizers and all of a sudden we were off. I hardly had enough time to start my watch. Also, as the pack hastily took off, the front group did not pay attention and missed the required turn. All of a sudden I found myself at the back of the pack. Joel ran past me annoyed. I was annoyed too… we just started and already got lost. Ugh!

As I was trying to settle on the route, I noticed that I was frowning and felt very annoyed. I was going up a small hill and I felt out of breath. That sudden start and missed turn really affected my mood. I then thought about my experiment and I laughed. And I kept smiling for the entire race. I even found myself bursting into laughter thinking about the experiment. I wondered if the other runners saw my smile and heard my laughter. That made me laugh too… I must have looked a bit ridiculous. I ran past the only aid stating, which was located at the half way point, and the volunteers cheered for me and one actually said “good job and you are still smiling!“. That made me smile even more! So with the biggest smile on my face, I thanked them for their cheer.

As I was coming close to the last stretch, I ran as fast as I could… still smiling. I felt super good and finished strong. Joel finished ahead of me, so we chatted about our runs. He mentioned that he did not feel too good. I told him that it was one of my best races and felt super!

I believe that the smiling really helped my run. Throughout the race, I felt super good. My legs were not in pain as they usually are. Even my breathing was calmer. Also, throughout the race, I really enjoyed the run and was not dreading each mile, especially towards the end of the race. I also felt like the run was easier than any of my previous runs or races. And lastly, I think that smiling really changed my overall mood and attitude.

As Joel and I were hanging out in the lodge resting and having a snack, the organizers presented the race awards. For my age group, she called my name. I could not believe it! Also, looking at the results, I placed 23 out of 65 for the overall group and placed 7 out of 32 in my gender group. That is just crazy! I thought that I had a good race, but I felt like there were a bunch of runners and women who were much stronger than I was.

The convincing part of this experiment was the pace. Recently, my pace has been around 11 to even 12 minute miles for 3 to 4 mile runs. I have actually been pretty disappointed about it lately since I feel like I was much faster in the past and even at the beginning of the year. Granted that I have only been able to run twice a week and I do run on my own a lot, so perhaps those are some of the reasons. Running or cycling with a group has always motivated me… I know this for a fact. For the race, my pace was 10:19… and this was a 10k! I am really excited and proud of myself that I was able to run it at that pace! And although there were many runners around to motivate me, I definitely think that the smiling helped. Every athlete should give this a try! And if you do, I am curious to hear all about it.

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