Happy? It’s more important than you realise.

Me being very, VERY happy!
Me being very, VERY happy!

Greg Rutherford was recently on a documentary looking into the concept of whether people are born to win: if through genetic testing it is possible to see what sorts of sports any of us are ideally built for? Regardless of whether or not you think it is ethical or important or necessary to know these things – and I am not sure personally – another thing that came up in the programme was that there is much, much more to being a winner, or the best you can be, then whether you have the right genes.

Matthew Sayed was on the same programme and he says that genes are a tiny ingredient in a very complex and rich recipe. More importantly, for Sayed, are attitude and opportunity which he says are everything.

Back to Rutherford, and he says that being happy is key. Before his breakthrough at the Olympic Games in 2012, Rutherford actually reduced his training to three sessions per week and spent much more time making sure that he was happy.

Personally this is a bit is a light bulb moment.

At the moment I would say that I am not generally very happy. There is a lot of pressure coming from being half of the team running freestak with my wife, Julie, and – again with Julie – trying to continually improve Like the Wind magazine. Running a business is really tough. I am learning the difficult lesson that when you do something for yourself and put it out in the world, you become a target for people who think that their opinions matter, even when all they seem to want to do is be negative. I guess that is just spite and jealousy, but I am definitely affected by it.

At times I feel tired, stressed and anxious. Don’t get me wrong, this is not how I feel all the time. If I did I would have to stop! But I would say that on balance I feel unhappy often enough that it is having a negative effect on my running. In short, I find myself regularly thinking that I would rather have a cup of tea and curl up on the sofa than get myself out of the door.

So the answer is… well I’m not sure. I guess I have to think about how to make myself happier. If I think back to when I ran my marathon PB, I was really happy. J and I had launched freestak and we were in a honeymoon period with the business. I was happy to be my own boss and I believed that we were doing something important. Training therefore was going well and that made me… happier. As a result I raced well and enjoyed a few good results. And guess what? That success made me even happier!

Right now I know that if I can get myself out and start running more and get in shape, then I will feel happier and that will have a positive affect on everything. I guess I need to start being less sensitive about what people I don’t know think and try to look at all the positive things that are happening. That can then be the fuel to drive me towards more and more happiness. Let’s just hope that I’m genetically programmed to be happy!


  1. Such a brave and important post. Happiness is the most important thing. There’s no one formula to get it, though. What made us happy at one time in life may not make us happy at another. Running definitely helps, though.

    All the best.

  2. Running for a long time has equalled happiness for me but recently it’s been harder. I don’t have the pressure of my own business but I do have a small child who isn’t sleeping and is causing us a lot of stress 🙂
    For me I found forgetting about target races or training for something specific and simply running has helped me move forward. Just enjoying be out no matter how slow or short the distance.

  3. Thank you for such an honest post Simon. Setting up and running your own business is tough! I set up an interiors business in 2003 and while I was doing something I was totally passionate about, the stress of constantly finding work, coupled with physically working on site and worrying about whether I could pay my mortgage that month really took its toll on my health. I didn’t make time to look after myself and it took a number of years to recover. I’ve now put my well being at the forefront of me being happy, it comes ahead of work and career and I’m much happier for it. No longer running my business but instead doing something that still brings me immense joy and I make the time to run/cycle/swim. My advice to any entrepreneur is make the time to look after yourself, put it into your diary and do it!

  4. Simon, I totally agree on some of these points. I am part of a small family business and sometimes the stress is so absorbing I don’t feel like doing much else in terms of training. However sometimes you have to take stock as to how far you have COME since you started, and also remember that “if it was easy, everyone would be doing it!”

    My advice would be to prioritise training say 2-3 times a week no matter what, remember there is a huge mental benefit to exercise. Prioritise being healthy rather than “race fit” for the time being and you’ll feel 10x better! Good luck

  5. Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks Simon. There will always be haters. The most important think is that your out there doing it and trying to make it work.

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