Is an unrewarding job good for one’s running?

by EJN Comments (2) Articles, Training

By Dan Dipiro

The other day, I had a great day of work. I worked hard on a project for over 13 hours and, when the day was done, I felt great about it. During that day, I blew off a track workout and didn’t mind doing it. This was different for me.

In the last years of my old job (which I quit in June), my work was not rewarding. It was, for the most part, easy, boring, frustrating, and unrewarding. This made me more reliant on, and devoted to, the rewards of running. Had work kept me from a track workout in those days, I’d have been unhappy about it — angry, frustrated.

I was doing double workouts then — starting many workdays with a morning run and then running at lunch too. Between running and working, it was definitely running that offered the richness and reward in my day, not the work. (Other things offered reward, like family, but I’m talking here about just the work/running balance.)

Now I have a new job, and I’m finding reward in my work again. On Wednesday, when track time rolled around, I simply had to keep working, had to miss the workout; I was working on a project with a tight deadline, and I had to deliver. But I didn’t mind missing track, because it was fun to be wrapped up in such a cool project and to feel like I was doing good work and delivering under pressure. I was getting my reward, and I didn’t mind that it was coming from my writing work and not my running.

So it seems my old, less rewarding job had me working harder at my running, and my new, rewarding job has me feeling okay about working less hard, at times, at my running. This makes me wonder about people who are more intense about their running than I am — the guys who work regular jobs and also run 100 miles per week and do well in the grand prix races and so forth. Do they have intense, rewarding jobs that they work hard at? …or are they doing perfunctory, mundane stuff during the workday and pouring themselves, emotionally, into their running?


My running isn’t slipping from me; I still got 50 miles in last week. And at the end of that intense day of work that had me missing track, I put on a reflective vest and headlamp and had a great, surprisingly fast run through the hills in the cool, dark night. I’m actually welcoming what changes my new work enthusiasm may bring to my running, because my training and racing could use a change, an injection of newness.

Maybe that newness will mean fewer planned workouts and more spontaneous training — more fitting runs in, here and there. I think it won’t mean my running will suffer. I think it’ll mean my running will just be different. And I welcome that. I welcome a new routine … or just less routine.

I’m trying something new today: racing with no GPS and no watch at all. I don’t want to monitor my pace every 30 seconds by GPS while I race. I want to break that habit, break that dependence, and race differently. I want to just race by feel and race the people around me.

Follow Dan on his blog Shodfoot Running, where Dan writes about training, racing, and living with Addison’s disease.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someonePrint this page

2 Responses to Is an unrewarding job good for one’s running?

  1. Nate says:

    When I was first out of college I had a job that was retail and very much the mindless sort of thing that was just passing time between runs and I was able to really knock out the miles and workouts. Now I work as a teacher and it is a tough rewarding job, during the school year. Obviously during the summer I had a chance to focus on running that people who don’t get 8 weeks vacation can’t imagine. Now is it harder to get out and do a 100 mile week and some quality workouts with an engaging rewarding job? Yes. That said I do like having running there and forcing myself to get into it in a big way because of the nature of teaching in a fairly high needs community there simply is no way that I could do every last thing that every last one of my students needs and having running helps me cut out some time for myself and to draw a line in the sand and say the work day ends here. Not really a different view but shift in perspective.

  2. MQ says:

    I’m a mom and also a teacher (music, part-time, in a public school with only two grade levels). Apart from the students – who are almost 100% a delight – this particular position often feels like a soul-sucking, Sisyphean nightmare, but I choose to hold on to it because of the opportunities it provides me to get mileage in without taking time away from my family. I would rather have an unrewarding job and a guaranteed daytime run, than a rewarding job that forces me to balance running against more important parts of my life. Plus, you just can’t beat having summers off.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Prove you are human (required)
Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.