by Louis Cinquino

Run with me.

That’s my offer as I share, for the first time anywhere, a project I’ve been working on for the past few years. It’s what I believe to be the first significant approach to developing the positive psychology of running, which I call WholeRunner: Your Inside Track to Happiness.

WholeRunner is intended to harness the power, discipline, and joy of our running to help us in other aspects of our lives. The program is still a work in progress. The more I dig into the research and experiences of other runners, the more I realize that I’m just scratching the surface of what’s possible. I’d love to add your voice and experience as we explore together how running can make us happier and help us (and our clients) achieve more of what we want from life.

WholeRunner isn’t for everyone (although it can be). It’s for, well, for runners.

Even though we don’t always flock together, it’s my belief that we runners are birds of a feather. We are a certain way when we run. A certain way when we think about our running. A certain way because we run.

With many of the runners I’ve gotten to know over the years, running isn’t just another form of exercise. It becomes part of us. We might just do some weight lifting or just attend a spin class now and then. But we don’t justrun. We arerunners.

That kind of self identity becomes deeply ingrained—and is reinforced every time we head out for our next run. So why not put that mindset to work toward a greater mission?

So, are you a runner?

Do you run every day? (I don’t.) Are you training for a race? (I’m not.) Do you run marathons? (I haven’t run one in almost 20 years.) Do you have a BMI of 21.1 like Olympic Champion Mo Farrah? (Yeah, right.) Do you own a pair of tights? (Okay, I do, but they are not what make me a runner.)

I’ve often heard my friend and running guru Bart Yasso, author of My Life on the Run, tell audiences that he has a simple test to tell if you are a runner.

“Do you run? If you run, then you are a runner.”

So that will be our definition, too. It doesn’t matter what kind of runner you are—or if you have tights. WholeRunner can work for newbies, ultra-marathoners, once-a-week runners, treadmill runners, streakers (don’t get too excited, that just means someone who has run every day for long periods of time), people who have never entered a race, and people who have competed in world-class events.

WholeRunner is for you. That’s because it’s actually not about running—it’s about living the life you want and being just a little bit happier doing something you are already doing. I’m not going to try and convince you to run more (although you may find yourself wanting to) or urge you to run faster (although there’s a good chance you may).

What I want most is for you to begin to see your running in the context of your whole life, your whole being.

Let’s be clear on one important thing.

Running does not make you happy.

It can, and I hope it will. But happiness does not just happen automatically because you run. We all know plenty of runners who are miserable to be around—even when they are not droning on about the split time of their latest marathon. In fact, running can be part of what’s making you miserable, if you run grudgingly or obsessively and fail to understand and appreciate the kind of positive force it can be in your life.

Running can be just like anything else we do without awareness—an activity and nothing more. It’s well known that we inherently get some physical and mental benefits from the activity itself. If that’s enough for you, then you don’t need WholeRunner. Just Do It.

Our goal is to go further. WholeRunner strives to make running an intentional vehicle that opens us to being a little bit happier. It’s not the running itself, but the awareness we bring to what we are doing and how we are doing it. There’s nothing wrong with “Just Do It.” We actually will just do it quite often. We will also do one more crucial thing. To paraphrase a great running coach, we will “Just Do It—and Know We Are Doing It.”

That running coach being the Buddha. According to Thich Nhat Hanh, in Living Buddha, Living Christ, when the Buddha was asked, “Sir, what do you and your monks practice?” he replied, “We sit, we walk, and we eat.” The questioner continued, “But sir, everyone sits, walks, and eats,” and the Buddha told him, “When we sit, we know we are sitting. When we walk, we know we are walking. When we eat, we know we are eating.”

WholeRunner adopts that same philosophy. When we run, we know we are running.

Our approach with WholeRunner is to look at our running mindfully, from unique points of view, including

• What we think about when we run

• How the discipline of our running routine can help forge positive rituals in our “civilian” life

• How mindful experiences of running can vividly and kinesthetically bring to life the lessons of positive psychology

• How we can align our running goals and our life goals—and how they can reinforce each other.

Along the way, we will spend much of our time understanding some key exercises and tools of the positive psychology movement and adapt those tools to be used through the lens of our running.

As a Road Runners of America certified running coach and a graduate of both the Certificate in Positive Psychology and Positive Psychology Coaching programs with Wholebeing Institute, I will offer you this early look at WholeRunner methods with a series of posts in the coming weeks. I welcome your feedback and experiences to share with readers; contact me at TakingMulligans@gmail.com.

Together, we will explore and explain the essence of the positive psychology of running so we can practice the WholeRunner approach in our own lives and share it with our clients.

Watch for the next installments in Louis Cinquino’s Whole Runner series—and check out his previous posts and series for the blog here.

Louis Cinquino is a writer, Certified Distance Running Coach, life coach, dad, and graduate of CiPP4 and Positive Psychology Coaching Fundamentals. His personal observations, discoveries, and training plan as he prepared for the Fifth Avenue Mile race were featured in “The Mulligan Mile,” (Runners World, September 2013). He is currently developing WholeRunner: Your Inside Track to Happiness, a project to explore and explain the positive psychology of running. You can read more from Louis on his blog, TakingMulligans.com.