Four years ago I worked my way to an 80-pound weight loss goal. During the process, I decided to become active as well. I started going to the gym and met with a personal trainer to get into better shape. Every once in a while she would put me on the treadmill and I would immediately tense up and list all the reasons why I couldn’t run. I hadn’t run a mile since high school! In my mind, me running anything more than that was as probable as me becoming an astronaut. As my training went on, however, this fear of running started to bother me. I don’t like being afraid of things or letting fear overpower me. I decided to tackle a 5K training podcast and 9-weeks later, I ran my first 3.1-mile race. Within a year, I trained and completed my first half marathon. Since then, I’ve also tackled triathlons, 200+ mile relay races, and long-distance cycling.
I am not fast. I don’t break records. It’s never easy. But running has been such a gift. I have had some of the most rewarding and life-changing experiences because of it. I cannot imagine my life without it. I walk away from every run with a clear head and a lesson learned. Here are some of them:
Runners are awesome people.
After my first 5K, I nervously joined a local running club for their weekly Saturday run. I was greeted and paced by a friendly guy named Gus who stuck with me and chatted me up through every weezy minute of my 3-miles that morning. It was only after I got home that I learned that Gus was an Ironman competitor. He actually went on to run 13 more miles that morning after I collapsed in my car. It must have been so tedious for him to stick with me but he never let on. I have never had a fellow runner judge me or make me feel unwelcome at a race; quite the opposite in fact. The more hardcore the athlete, the more encouraging he or she has been.
My body can do incredible things if I just get my brain out of the way.
If I allowed my doubts to determine my running goals I would never have gotten on the treadmill. There is something to be said for turning your brain off and just letting your body do the work. It’s hard but so worth it! My best runs have been on days when my brain was convinced I couldn’t go the distance. The feeling of accomplishment that comes with that completion is better than just about anything.
There will always be someone faster and that is okay.
I have been passed by every kind of person imaginable: Young, old, tall, hunched over, amputees, Navy SEALs, you name it. I am never too proud to cheer them on or use their example as motivation to get better. They also serve as a reminder to stop focusing on my weaknesses. Everyone has challenges. It’s what you accomplish with them that matters.
Always have a goal.
For me, finding the motivation to run regularly is tough unless I give myself a training objective. There are very few things that feel as good as setting a goal and reaching it, especially when it involves a finish line and race medal.
Starting over is not failure.
I am not one of those people who can wake up in the morning and bust out 10 miles. In fact, my body seems to forget I’ve ever run a half marathon within a week of doing it. In the years since I took up running, I have started from scratch (running less than 2 miles) at least four times. It would be easy to let this frustrate me but I don’t allow it. There is nothing productive about negative thinking. My body needs rest and I respect it.
Ask questions to those who know better.
I am still a member of a local running club. The skills and accomplishments of the club’s members are incredibly impressive. They are a great resource for questions. They are also great examples of how to balance jobs, kids, and life while still finding time to train. I also like picking the brain of the folks who own or work at the running stores. I follow people like Hal Higdon and Lauren Fleshman on social media as well. I am always open to learning how to improve. We should all be.
Don’t get bogged down with technology and statistics.
There are so many cool gadgets and gizmos that tell you every possible statistic about your run. It’s very easy to get so distracted by constantly improving your numbers that you forget to enjoy the simple act of running itself. I prefer to keep it simple. I listen to my playlist and track my run with Runkeeper. Every once in a while I’ll look at my numbers but I generally prefer paying attention to how I feel and the scenery around me. I want to decide if I’ve had a good run. I don’t want my watch to tell me.
Cheerleaders make the world a better place.
I have incredible supporters in my life. They build me up and make me feel like I can do anything. If you’re ever free on a Saturday morning, check around for local races and go support your local athletes. It feels great and watching them is inspiring.
Little eyes are watching.
My kids have grown up with an active mom. Heading to the gym and participating in races are a part of our everyday life. I know they are more active because I am. I want them to think fitness is a given in life, not a burden. I want them to reach goals and be proud of themselves. I also want them to see a strong confident athlete in their mom.
When I run, I can handle anything.
I don’t ever get the “runner’s high” that we have all heard about. Instead, getting my heart rate up daily keeps me calm and level-headed. I handle stress better. I think more clearly. It makes me happy.
Running has been a complete surprise to me. It is easy for each of us to believe that we already know what we are going to know and that we have accomplished all that we will accomplish. Be open to trying something completely impossible. You never know what you may learn.