I have been a runner for more than 20 years. It began for me when I was 17 and started preparing to go to boot camp. I started running in my neighborhood because I knew it would be a part of basic training. And it was. We ran every day. Beyond boot camp I continued to run as a part of my exercise regimen to stay in shape. I’ve easily participated in more than a dozen races, including 5k’s, 10k’s and one half marathon. Even though it’s something I’ve always done, it’s not something I’ve always enjoyed. Nor is it something I’ve always considered myself to be really good at. I used to compare myself to other runners. Since I’m not what I consider a fast runner, I’ve never given myself credit for being halfway good at it.
In recent years, I’ve changed my perspective about running. What I like about it most is that it’s a metaphor for life. In running, as it is in life, you get out of it what you put into it. When people are trying to improve in running I always tell them, “if you want to get better at it, you have to do it more.” You don’t become a better runner by wishing it or by watching other people. You have to get out there and put one foot in front of the other. You have to start where you are. For some people, it means starting with a walk, then increasing to a walk/run, then ultimately all running. For others they just start running, as I did. I typically start out at a slow pace to warm up and then pick up my speed as I go along, ultimately finishing strong.
It’s so encouraging because as you do it, you will become stronger and you quickly begin to see physical and emotional changes. Your endurance builds up rather quickly over time. Eventually it gets easier to cover distance at a faster pace.
Here’s the other part about running. You have to accept that every day is not the same. Some days you will do more than you expect, and the next day you can barely cover half the distance of your best run. It can feel so discouraging if you let it. I find that I tend to give myself permission to have bad days in running. However, in other areas of my life I tend to beat myself up when I have a bad day, especially when I don’t accomplish the goals I set for myself.
This past weekend I experienced a great victory. I am in the process of simultaneously training for a half marathon in April and a sprint triathlon in June. My training schedule includes long runs on the weekends. This past weekend I was scheduled to do an 8 mile run. I was extremely anxious about this milestone because I haven’t been covering long distances lately. I’m a seasonal runner. I don’t run much in the winter. On my run days, I’ve been doing an average of 3 miles. So, to jump to 8 miles was scary.
One of my best strengths as a runner is I can cover distance. I think it’s because I’ve learned to set my own pace – I don’t try to keep up with others. I don’t run fast, but I can run far when I’m rested and prepared. I also prefer to run my entire distance, I don’t like to stop and walk, unless I’m injured or in pain. Otherwise, I keep at it. When I went out to run on Saturday I kept telling myself, I probably wont’ run it all, but I’ll do the best I can. The most important thing for me was to cover the distance. Well, not only did I run the distance, it didn’t feel hard at all. I actually could’ve run another mile or 2 if I had to. I can’t describe how incredible it felt to accomplish that goal. I felt AMAZING!
As I’ve reflected on that run, I’ve started to see how I can take that same approach in the areas I’m struggling with in my professional life. Here’s my take away.
In ALL things:
1. Prepare as much as you can.
2. Be determined to do it afraid.
3. Do your best and accept that it’s enough.
4. Don’t give up! Run the race with endurance.
5. Know that when you do something you didn’t think you could do, it gives you confidence. It inspires you to continue to push beyond your comfort zone and tackle other goals you’ve set for yourself.
Next week, I will continue this topic. I will share more of the life lessons I’ve learned from running. These revelations really helped me. I hope it does the same for you.
Question: Are there any ordinary activities you do that you’ve gleaned any life or spiritual lessons?