The wind on my face, sweat pouring down my brow, my legs carrying me mile after mile, the burning in my lungs, the constant mental struggle…running, I hate every part of it. As I write this, I just finished my third half marathon; everything hurts, and I’m strategically setting goals for my next race. How (and why?!) does a girl who hates running, run so damn much?
I’m not sure there’s an easy way to answer that besides that running has become a necessity. It is a time I can count on to be away from life and only focus on my body (and it yelling at me to stop the torture). And while I ask myself each morning when my alarm blares at 6am why the heck am I doing this to myself (and I ask myself every minute from mile 1 to 5 (my average daily run), and I ask myself when I’m foam rolling my calves, and I’m asking myself pretty much all the time), I’ve come to realize that it’s not really important why I run, but the things that running has taught me about my life.
I recently surpassed the 1000 mile marker (at the time of writing I’m currently at 1,215) and here are five valuable life lessons running has taught me.
1. Just Put One Foot In Front Of The Other
Someone asked me the other day how I manage stress when I’m overwhelmed with life’s responsibilities. I told him, I put my head down and put one foot in front of the other until I finish whatever needs finishing. I do that both mentally and physically. When I’ve overwhelmed and stressed, I go for a run, but I also mentally, put my head down and take one step at a time. While running, usually around the last 2 miles, when I’m overwhelmed, and my strength is taxed, I just tell myself to put one foot in front of the other and sooner or later, I’ll cross that finish line.
Life is an awesome, amazing and sometimes difficult journey. You can’t stop. Take one step at a time through the difficult times and eventually, you’ll make it through.
2. It’s Okay To Fall Apart, But Don’t Stop
When running, there is a point when your body wants to fall apart, and emotions overtake you. In almost all of my races, I’ve cried at some point. Not from pain, maybe a little from exhaustion, but I think it’s my body’s response to firing all cylinders for a long period of time. And even though I want to stop, sit down, and enjoy that donut someone at mile 11 is offering me, I don’t. I can’t.
There are so many people that when they encounter something awful in their life, they stop, break down and become stagnant. It’s tempting, oh it so tempting, but don’t do it. Don’t stop. When you feel like you’re going to fall apart, cry a little, maybe slow your pace, but as I said in #1, just keep going.
3. It Hurts Like Hell, But The Pain Doesn’t Last Forever
This year, I vowed to do one thing that challenges me every day. Whether it is physical, mental, or spiritual, I want to always be pushing myself to excellence. The problem with that is doing challenging things hurt. Learning a new skill, pushing yourself to go faster for one extra mile, choosing not to eat that leftover pizza…it hurts.
Muhammad Ali once said, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’ ” I don’t know how many mornings I’ve uttered this to myself, but it’s true. The minute I stop running, the pain goes away, and I feel amazing the rest of the day, so glad I accomplished a run. Then I am thankful that I have the ability to run, because so many people do not.
If you’re going through a difficult or challenging time in your life, just remember that it may hurt like hell at the moment, but the pain won’t last forever. In the midst of my divorce, there were days I felt like I couldn’t go another step. I wanted to quit because it was just too hard. But I doggedly took one day, one step at a time and it’s true. The pain didn’t last forever, and I am so much better off having gone through it.
4. Surround Yourself With People Who Will Cheer You On
During a race, there are so many people with signs cheering you on at the beginning and the end of the race. In the middle of the race, though, there are stretches with very few people, and you often find yourself alone – with even other racers few and far between. At around mile 18, most runners hit a wall. I didn’t believe there was a wall, but trust me…there is. It’s when the spectators are few, everything hurts, and you’re wondering why you are doing it at all. You’re tempted to start walking. You’re tempted to quit. But then, up ahead, you’ll spot a small group of spectators or another runner who shouts some encouragement right when you decide you’re done, and that’s enough to keep going.
[READ ABOUT MY FIRST MARATHON EXPERIENCE ON FITTED MAGAZINE HERE]
At my lowest point right after I decided to leave my ex-husband, I had some solid friends that were there no matter what. They held me up when I didn’t want to go further. They loved me and supported me through my journey back. They didn’t judge me, they didn’t preach at me, they didn’t abandon me. They cheered me on and kept me going. If the people around you aren’t helping you move forward, it’s time to find people that will.
5. No One Else Can Do It For You
It would be super awesome if someone else could get up at 6am, run X number of miles and eat right every day and then I would swoop in and collect the medal, the hot body, the healthy heart, etc. But it doesn’t work that way. If you want something in life, if you want anything in life, you’ve got to put in the work to get it done. It doesn’t just happen to you, and it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s the discipline YOU have to put in every single day to make it happen. (Sure, there are a few exceptions to this, but those are anomalies).
People can be there to cheer you on (see #4) and motivate you, but ultimately, it’s you and only you that makes the decision to get your butt off the couch, give up your excuses and fears and make things happen – whether that is to run a mile (or 26.2 miles), start a business, lose 50lbs, or chase some other dream. Your goals are there for the taking, and no one is going to take it and give it to you. So, if you want it, put in the work and do it.
I never thought I would become a runner, but I find myself waking up early, getting out there, making goals, signing up for races, buying running things and saying running phrases. Two and a half years ago, I laced up my shoes and did it. What motivated me to get up off the couch? Because I wanted to be better than I was at running and at life.
What’s stopping you from achieving your goals?