Here's what I truly love about running: Every single lesson it has taught me, can be applied to my life. Maybe it's the reason I continue lacing up my shoes, day after day. Even when running brings me tears. Because I know, right around the corner, is a lesson to be learned. I'll always be grateful for being a student of running.
Five Lessons Running Has Taught Me:
1. You have to get through the tough parts to get to the good.
Sometimes when I take off for a run, the first mile is so challenging I can't imagine how I can possibly make it to the end. Each step is a battle mentally and physically. It's the longest mile. For whatever reason (stubbornness? determination?), I keep trekking along. One day I had a ten mile run on the schedule and I didn't 'hit my stride' until the 6th mile. That means for about an hour of running, I was hurting, both mentally and physically. But once I got my wind, I was feeling great. If I had stopped when it didn't feel good I never would have made it to the good.
2. You can't look at the total distance.
I know it's there. Whether it's 4 miles, 13.1, 26.2 or 50-plus. If I think of how far I have to run, my mind begins to fill with doubt and negativity. I start hearing words like: Why are you doing this? You can't run that far! You're hurting, just stop. Instead, I have to focus on the mile I'm running. And I think of how far I've come. I have a 10-mile route that I run nearly every Saturday. I focus on getting three miles done. And instead of letting myself think about the seven more I have to do, I tell myself "Just two more miles, you can do two more miles." Once I'm at my five-mile mark, I don't let myself think "You are only halfway there," instead I think to myself "You just ran five miles! Now get three more miles done." Not once do I let myself think "You have to run 10 miles or you have seven more to go." If I start thinking that way, my mind will try to overpower my heart and tell me to give up. I cannot focus on how far I have to go. I have to break my run up into smaller miles and feel good about the miles that are behind me, not in front of me.
3. You have a strength in you that is more than muscle.
It's a strength that you find deep down in the core of what makes you you. I didn't have the words to describe it until I found a poster on Pinterest that described it perfectly: Beast Mode. If you think you don't have it, you are wrong. It's in you. You may have seen it when you went "Mama Bear" and had to stand up for your kids. Trust me, it's there. You don't always need to use it. But when you do, it's what will help you get through something that you thought was impossible.
4. You cannot compare, judge or worry how you match up to someone else.
Focus on yourself. I'm never the fastest, thinnest, or strongest runner out there. I have learned that someone out there is always judging you: for exercising too much, for exercising too little, for being a stay at home mom, for being a working mom. The list goes on and on. The only person I can worry about is me. When I run, whether it's on the treadmill at the gym, a route in my neighborhood, a race with thousands of people, I run for me. Everyone else is running their own race. Let them. And focus on you.
5. Running is a journey, and yet there is no finish line.
Or is it: life is a journey and there is no finish line. It all gets blurred. It was during my 50-mile ultra marathon journey that a good friend told me: happiness comes and goes. So does pain. And hurt. And joy. And sorrow. Instead of chasing those feelings or trying to run away from them, let them come and go. When I race, the finish line is never the end. A big part of the experience was the training along the way. And the experience of how my life changed after I finished the race. When you cross the finish line of any race, the journey hasn't been completed. Because you have more waiting for you -- good and bad. Running has taught me to embrace the journey. If running is a journey, I don't ever want to reach the destination. I don't want there to be a finish line because it's in the journey that I learn, live and love -- I grow. It's in the journey that I feel alive -- even when I feel pain.
My old running coach has a saying: "Run with Joy". Not only do I want to run with joy, I want to live with joy. I hope you do too.
Originally published on My Fit Family.