Throughout the race course of our lives, obstacles along the way change our very being. The things we encounter in the midst of our paths— well, they are like each pounding step taken breaking in a new pair of running shoes; our treads get worn down, our soles get scuffed, stiffness gives way, that sweet spot develops. That’s life. And, if life is a marathon, then it is the race course set in front of us, along with how we react to the hills, valleys, twists and turns we encounter during that race course, that help define who we are as a person.
I am a runner. I’m a runner not just because I run, but because everything that being a runner entails is everything that being me simply is. I live for the cold winter mornings when my footfalls make crispy-crunchy sounds in the densely packed snow, leaving a trail of a single set of footprints behind me. I live for the hot summer nights when the humidity bursts into a sudden shower of cool rain that falls softly against my back, my hair clinging with dampness against my flushed skin. And I live for those peaceful moments when I hear nothing but the sound of my footfalls as the runner’s high sets in and the perfect moment of just running, just going, and just being cascades over me. Yup, I’m a runner.
As much of my life as I’ve given to running, though— running has given me so much more in return.
1. Never stop moving forward.
One of the first things runners learn: never stop moving forward. It doesn’t matter how slow you’re going, just keep on going. It’s a simple but important lesson for any runner, and any runner that learns this— well, if they apply this to their lives too, then a runner can overcome just about anything in life. Just keep going. Just keep moving. Just keep putting on foot in front of the other.
2. Know when you’re broken.
It’s been said that it’s not a matter of if, but when, a runner gets injured. To be sure, runners are known for injuries… runner’s knees, shin splints, aches and sprains. It happens. But runners, as well as people, aren’t always good at understanding the difference between being sore and being broken. Running has taught me that difference. It’s allowed me to understand when I simply need a rest— as opposed to when I’m truly broken down.
3. Challenges make you stronger.
Challenges are what change you. With each run that pushes you to your breaking point— makes you run farther, run faster, run harder— you become a stronger runner, a better runner. The same goes with life. Even when life, like running, seems like an uphill battle, the hills are what challenge you; they’re what change you. In the end, you’re a stronger person and a better person for every single challenge you encounter and you conquer. Don’t fear challenges— face them.
4. Life is about what you do when no one is watching.
Every runner has had that moment. You know the one— the quick glance around “hmmm, is anyone around? oh, thank god, I’m just gonna walk a bit. no one will know!” You know you’ve done it. I’ve done it too. It happens. Likewise, every runner has felt the opposite feeling— the surge of power you get when you pass someone and, suddenly, you have the desire to give it your all. It’s only natural. But, the fact is, life is about the work, the effort, and the spirit you put into your passions… even when no one is watching. Because while every runner has had this experience, you’ll never progress if you’re not constantly pushing yourself.
5. Learn how to suck at something.
Running is a sport of failure. You suck. And you suck some more. Then you suck again. Finally, maybe one day, you don’t suck quite so much. That’s the way it goes. No one starts out at a 6:30 minute mile. No one runs a marathon with no experience. It just doesn’t happen. You’ve got to get used to failing, and you’ve got to get used to failing often. Anyone who has ever had success in anything will tell you firsthand— the key to success, ironically, is failure.
6. Starting is always hardest.
Getting off your butt, getting out of the house, and getting started is one of the hardest parts of running. It’s not even the running itself— it’s finding that motivation to do it. It doesn’t always come easily. I love running, but even I have those days where I.JUST.DON’T.WANNA! I admit it. But running has taught me that starting is just a hurdle, and once I clear that hurdle I feel absolutely awesome. Life is no different; starting is always difficult. There’s a certain apprehension that comes with starting something— especially something new— but any experienced runner knows that the difficulties of starting pale in comparison to the joy that comes with having finally finished.
7. Take a break.
This is a hard lesson for runners to learn— especially runners that have a true passion for the sport. For runners, a rest day is often the bane of our existence. Sometimes a day just doesn’t feel complete without a run. But always going, going, going has its drawbacks. Your body doesn’t have time to rest, recharge, recover, repair… and, ultimately, be stronger. So sometimes this hurts runners (no pun intended) in the long run. Runners need to learn to take a break, just like in life you need to learn to take breaks as well. Sometimes a bit of rest is all you need to come back stronger.
8. Sometimes you’re gonna fall on your ass. Sometimes you’re gonna eat a bug. Sometimes you’re gonna run through dog shit.
It happens. Not every run is a slow motion Baywatch-style jaunt on the beach. Not every run comes with a runner’s high that feels like nirvana. Not every run busts a personal record with next to no effort. Sometimes running, like life, sucks. You run through dog shit and you want to curse the world. You swallow a stray bug and you feel like punching a tree. You fall on your ass and you just don’t feel like getting back up. But, like life, you’ve gotta learn to take the good runs with the bad runs, just like you’ve gotta learn to take the good days with the bad days. So eat a random bug, and smile knowing that better days and better runs still lie ahead.
9. The only thing that can stop you is yourself.
Running is more mental than physical. Sure, your body is involved, but your mind controls your body— and your mind can do extraordinary things, just like it can make your body to extraordinary things too. While running, your mind has to constantly tell your body to keep going, keep running, keep moving forward; the only thing that can stop you from moving forward is your own mind telling you that you can’t do it. So don’t let it. Don’t let yourself stand in the way of moving forward. The same goes for all of your pursuits in life; sometimes we are our own worst enemies. We stop ourselves from moving forward— don’t!
10. Sometimes you just feel like you’re gonna die.
You’re gasping for breath. Your glutes are on fire. You’re sure its a zillion degrees out. You feel like you are going to die. Or puke. Or both. Who knows. Every runner has been there. But, rest assured, even if you feel like you’re gonna die— you’re going to be okay. It’s an important lesson for every runner, and it’s an important lesson in life too. Sometimes you feel like you’re gonna die. But you’re not. You’re going to be okay.
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