I took up running a few months ago when a coworker talked me into signing up for the Army 10 Miler with a couple other people from our organization. I’ve been running, on average, about four times a week since July and, shock of shocks, completed that race (my first) last month. I signed up on a whim and at first I stuck with it to save face — if I say I’m going to do something there is no way it isn’t happening. Somewhere along the line though I really came to love it.
Last week, I got my heel caught in a sidewalk crack and rolled my ankle. Needless to say, it isn’t happy and I haven’t been running for the last week…which got me thinking about what I’ve gotten out of running over the last half a year or so. The physical benefits are obvious but pale in comparison to the unexpected life lessons reinforced by various elements of this little adventure.
A few of the highlights…
- Work with what you have because if it isn’t authentically you, no good will come of it: I fell in love with these Nike sneakers that were black with little silver, metallic threads interwoven. Gorgeous, flashy but classy, I had to have them. But Nike shoes are horrible for my gait. So, I went with a plain grey and pink combo Addidas pair because they are a perfect fit for me and enhance rather than hinder my performance. I loved the Nikes but to what end? Being borderline miserable trying to make believe they kinda sorta worked okay?
- Always run your own race: I don’t run particularly fast and I am an extremely competitive person. I think I’ve only managed to reconcile those two facts within the last month or so. I would be plodding along at a comfortable pace and then someone would whiz past me. And then another person would. And then another girl who is like 5’0 (I’m 5’10”) and I would think “aaah, this is ridiculous.” I would run faster, get tired, walk a bit, and then go back to a pace slower than I had started at. This changed around mile 2 of the Army 10 Miler. My whole goal in life for weeks before was simply to finish that race. Even if I was the last person, I just wanted to be able to say I did it (I mean, my whole office knew I was running it, haha). But I had started out the race in my usual competitive mindset (aaah, run faster, “everyone else is doing it”). Around mile 2, it became clear that wouldn’t work…so I did something novel and decided to run my own race with and against myself and that was a race I could finish.
- Trust yourself: Nobody knows you better than you. You know when you can push harder, you know when you should ease up and you shouldn’t be looking/listening to others or the little nagging doubter in your mind telling you what you can and can’t do. Despite having trained for a couple months, I seriously considered not doing the race. Finishing was not a certainty and I really like certainties. Right up until the night before I wasn’t sure I was going to do it, but I trusted my preparation, took a chance, and it turned out to be one of the more satisfying accomplishments of my little life. You don’t know unless you try and you need to trust yourself enough to take that leap.
- All of life is a race you run against yourself: Friends, jobs, relationships, etc., will all come and go at various points. The one consistency in your life is you. Outside factors can influence the options open to you, but what you make of what you are given depends largely on what priorities you place on things and your ability to push past the little voice in your head telling you all the reasons you can’t/won’t/haven’t/shouldn’t. The constant reaffirmation of this is what I love most about running. I run after work, so it’s usually dark out and the streets are pretty empty. I put my iPod on and it really is just me out there. I know that I *can* finish my usual four miles, but even now my mind is rarely in a place conducive to it. I’m thinking about all the other things going on in my life, it takes a while to get into a rhythm, and maybe I’m a little tired from a long day. It’s all me against myself. Will I push myself or just settle?
It isn’t as though I wasn’t aware of these little life lessons before. However, real world instances of applicability can be tough to remember for more than a fleeting moment and, for me, this entire experience continues to serve as a glowing beacon reminding me to push limits and focus on what is possible in all areas of my life.