Friday, July 11, 2014

What Running Should Teach Us About Life...

I meant to make this be a funny list. I kinda went with the opposite... but it was still fun.  Runners are great at teaching themselves about running, and never realizing that we're teaching ourselves about life. Here are just a few things I think running should teach us about life...

1.       Eat right, drink water, wear quality shoes, avoid chafing.

Let’s start with the basics.  So obvious, right? Take care of yourself! Even as runners, when this basic tenet should be obvious, I think many of us neglect ourselves. Running becomes one more thing to jam into our day. It’s our “stress relief”, but sometimes it’s also a stressor. An obligation. Even if you enjoy it, you are physically stressing your body by running.  So, eat good, quality food.  Sleep. Good, quality sleep. Wear the right shoes. Really. Support yourself.  Avoid chafing? Well, that’s just common sense.

2.       Go at your own pace.

No really, I mean it. Too often, we’re told to hurry, get this done, get that done, be aggressive, chase down your goals and tackle them, etc. And that’s fine when you want to push. When you can sustain it. Or when you feel like pushing your limits a bit. But pace is such a deeply personal thing. What is pushing the limits for some could be a crawl for others, or impossibly aggressive for some.  There are times that I want to be flat out, driving hard, and gasping with exhaustion when I’m done. Other times, I want to preserve myself, settle in for the long haul, and choose comfort.  The same goes for life. We have to choose our own pace, and embrace it. Work toward goals or through situations at your speed, in your way. Marriage, work, having children, buying a home, etc. Don’t let the way someone else handles a similar situation dictate how you handle your situation OR how you feel about the way you handle your situation.

3.       Find a plan, and stick to it. But don’t panic when things go awry.

When you  choose a new distance for the first time, or want to get better at one, what’s the first thing you do? Look for a training plan of course!  And how many of us have missed a run or two, completely panicked, and found out in the long run, it didn’t matter? Probably 95% of us.

Life is like this. If you want to achieve something, anything, in work or your personal life, you have to have a plan. A logical, reasonable chart of how you will reach that goal. But you also have to be prepared. Life doesn’t always follow our plans and schedules. And it’s important to be flexible, to be able to re-route, to get derailed, and realize that you’re never truly off track, you can still reach your goal.

4.       You need support, and you need to support others.

Think about your favorite moments racing vs. your least favorite. For me, the best moments have come when there is a fun crowd cheering for the runners, or when I’m running alongside my running buddy, or a random fellow runner. The support energizes you. It keeps you moving forward. My favorite moments come when I give that support back, high-fiving other runners, cheering for other runners, or joking with the crowd.  Even waving and smiling to another runner in my neighborhood gives me a physical boost. Seek support and give support. You’ll gain from both.

5.       Tomorrow’s another day. And if it sucks, tomorrow’s tomorrow is another day.

Ever have a terrible run? Ever have two terrible runs in a row?  Ever just get in a funk?  Yup. It happens. When you have an awful run, or a bad day, sometimes an aborted run, what do you do? Tell yourself, “I will try again tomorrow.”  Sometimes, you’ve had a few bad days. Sometimes, it takes all the courage and willpower you can muster to try again. But if you try, try, try, you will find a tomorrow that is wonderful. I’ve had terrible runs followed by unbelievable runs. I’ve had weeks of OK runs to finally get a “good” run.  Life is just like this. Days will beat you down. Getting out of bed to face tomorrow will be hard. It will take courage. And sometimes, “tomorrow” will be just as bad as “today”. But if you continue to try, if you never give up, eventually, you will find a “tomorrow” that is good, and eventually one that is stellar, and eventually one that is a personal best.

6.       It is the journey AND the destination.

Be present in the moment with an eye to the future. Enjoy the moment, but be prepared for how the good and bad of now can prepare you for the good and bad in the future.

I recently ran my first marathon, and I’m currently training for my second. I trained for my first marathon in the middle of what was officially named Michigan’s Most Miserable Winter. Coldest, snowiest, most days without sun, you name it. I did long runs mid-snowstorm, ran in ski gear, including goggles, during a -22 wind chill morning, and bought trail shoes just to survive the snowy sidewalks.  I raced on a day that ended up being 70 degrees and sunny. Some days, I was fully present in that run, that step, that moment. Some days, my eye was toward the destination, coaxing myself out the door with the knowledge that this training run would get me to my goal.  

Training is such a combination of things, it’s hard not to be a metaphor for life.  You are always learning, from the good and the bad. You’re always moving forward, even when moving backward. Sometimes, you get “runner’s high”, and you’re so fully present in that moment you’re not thinking about anything else. Everything builds toward the destination, the race, and when you get there, you’re so grateful for the journey because that has colored how you experience everything else.  

Enjoy it.  Enjoy where you’ve come from. Enjoy where you’re going.  Enjoy where you are. 

What do you think running should teach us about life?

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