What Running Has Taught Me So Far

Take two…it’s a wordy one. Apparently, I had a lot to say.

That’s the thing about running: your greatest runs are rarely measured by racing success. They are moments in time when running allows you to see how wonderful your life is.

– Kara Goucher

As I’ve mentioned before, I never intended for running to take over this blog. I think once this half-marathon is over, a balance will be restored here. I’ve been accused by some in my real life recently of bragging, being slightly obsessed, and thinking I was better than others for taking on the half-marathon challenge. My intent was never to brag. I’m cognizant enough (at least I hope I am) to realize that in the grand scheme of life, nobody really gives a shit that I ran a 13.1 mile race in my lifetime. I’m not the first to achieve that goal, and I certainly won’t be the last.

Maybe I did intend to pat myself on the back a little. I’m pretty darn proud of myself. A little over a year ago, I was depressed, unhealthy, and I could barely run 1 mile, let alone 13.1. I started running by accident and it literally changed my life for the better. And like a new convert to a religion, I may have been a little over-exuberant in sharing my experience with others; but my intent was to keep a personal record of my journey, as well as to inspire and meet others with similar interests. It was never to obsess, brag, or condescend. I don’t know any other people who run regularly, so this is my place to explore, record, and meet others who may have advice, support, and experience to offer.

My first half-marathon training has been an interesting experience for me. I expected to push myself physically and mentally, but I didn’t expect the extent to which I would be tested. I chose this challenge when I did because it seemed like the right time. I was in good health, there was no unusual life stress to contend with, and I had the time and resources to train. However, when I was barely half-way into this journey, life happened, as it often does, and everything sort of fell apart on a personal level.  My husband lost his job (he thankfully got a new job, but with a drastic pay-cut which was a huge readjustment for us), my kids were dealing with bullying at school, I got a job and then had to leave it, I had some foot and asthma-related issues, and I had to deal with an unexpected family issue. My husband, a combat veteran suffering from PTSD, ended up in the hospital. He’s doing much better, but it’s been a struggle to get things back on track.

I could have quit, but I didn’t. I don’t think I could have made it through all this if I didn’t have the half-marathon to look forward to on the horizon. It gave me something concrete to focus on, it helped me distract myself from the stress I’ve been experiencing, my husband claims it’s inspiring to watch me progress, and it taught me lessons that I was able to apply to the non-running parts of my life.

Running also helped me maintain positive relationships with my kids throughout all this stress. My oldest has always liked to run. He is on the cross-country team and we ran our first 5K together last summer. Recently, both kids started joining me on some of my runs. It has become an activity that allows us to spend time together while blowing off some steam. As a result, we’ve had some of the best (and goofiest) conversations, which is important to maintaining household sanity.

Because of everything that happened during this short, 6 month time-frame, I’ve learned a lot about myself and some of the people I’ve surrounded myself with over the years. I’ve spent many miles reflecting on things recently: what is important to me, what I can change, and how I can change them. I thought I’d share them, not only to have my own personal record, but maybe someone else can relate.

  1. I am much stronger than I thought I was.
  2. There are things I can control, and things beyond my control. It only makes sense to focus on the things I can control. Worrying about the things beyond my control is a huge waste of time and energy. About the only thing I can control is my attitude, actions, and reactions, everything else is pretty much beyond my control.
  3. There is a difference in being busy and having purpose. I often thought I was too busy in the past to do anything for myself. Technically I was, but the busyness lacked purpose and I lacked discipline. Running is not my purpose in life, but it gave me the discipline I had been lacking. Now I try to live with purpose instead of just being busy. And I make sure I find the time for the things and people in my life that are important to me.
  4. I learned that I have a lot of “fair-weather friends”. They only come around when life is good – my life that is, because theirs is usually in disarray. When things got hard on my end, they were nowhere to be found. I’ve done some reevaluating on this front. I am trying to build better relationships with some, while also learning when to let go of the dead weight.
  5. It is important to be mindful of the people you surround yourself with. Energy vampires need to go. There is no need to feel guilty walking away from them. Misery may love company, but I have no intention in providing it with any.
  6. Every experience is what you make it. Almost every negative experience can be turned around just by doing something different.
  7. You have to be flexible and deal with things as they arise. Bad stuff happens. You can either keep moving forward or get stuck in the muck. Most times, things are not as desperate as they initially appear.
  8. Nobody can do the important work for you, you have to do it yourself. If you want things to happen, you have to figure out a way to make them happen. Wishing for, praying for, or “positively visualizing” something to happen without the accompanying hard work accomplishes nothing other than maybe setting yourself up for failure.
  9. It is important, not selfish, to take care of yourself. As a mom, I’ve always had people remind me, “You can’t take care of others unless you take care of yourself.” It’s true for everyone, not just moms. I feel much more equipped to handle things now that I’ve made the decision to always care for myself in addition to everyone else that needs care, rather than caring for everyone else instead of myself.
  10. Food = fuel. This one small adjustment in my thinking changed how I eat. I have a much healthier relationship with food now. I no longer approach food as a form of comfort or a reward. I don’t diet or “eat clean”, I’ve just been taking note of how foods impact my running performance. I don’t feel deprived either. I feel so much better both physically and mentally. If we don’t provide our minds and our bodies with the right fuel, how can we expect them to perform at an optimum level?
  11. Finally, and maybe the silliest lesson, but important just the same: keep moving forward until someone hands you a banana. I read this on a runner’s forum and I’ve been repeating this over and over in my head when both my long runs and long days get hard. I don’t know why, but the phrase makes me giggle. Humor is always a good motivator for me. This will probably be my mantra on June 1 when things start to get hard, which I’m sure they will at some point during the race.

I truly appreciate everyone that has supported me during this time. It’s been an enlightening, humbling, and mostly positive experience. Hopefully, I will be able to carry these lessons with me throughout the rest of my days. I’m sure I’ll add to the list as I learn new things. I’m ready to move forward until I get that banana, and maybe a tall glass of chocolate milk to go with it.

What has running taught you so far?

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