What Running Taught Me

I began my relationship with running in the summer of 2004 — seven years ago.  Over the past few years running and I have had our ups and downs.

I’ve learned a lot about running as I’ve become a more experienced runner.  But more importantly, I’ve learned a lot more about myself.

Running has taught me so much about me.  It has shaped who I am and made me a better person.

I owe a lot to running.

If I could bottle what running has done for me and share it with each of you, I would.  But such bottles do not exist so I am going to try to explain in my own little way.  If you’re a runner, I bet you can relate.  But even if you’re not, I hope you have something in your life that teaches you to appreciate who you are, your talents, and what you’ve been given in this life.

Running has taught me that…

Some time ago I recounted growing up being the chubby kid and my observations of how I was different than my skinny friends.  I believed that my lack of athleticism was partially to blame. If I could go back and ask that adolescent girl if she would ever take up running, adopt it as part of her lifestyle, and eventually run two marathons, she would think you were taunting her (I was a very sensitive child).

I never dreamed of that ever being a possibility for me.  I never knew I had it in me.  Not in my wildest dreams.

It’s not that the potential didn’t already exist inside of that insecure little girl; it just hadn’t been tapped into. Think about what other things you and I don’t know about ourselves.  The potential we have inside ourselves to do things we haven’t even dreamed of accomplishing. Yet.

It’s a little scary and exciting all at the same time, isn’t it?

But I may have never even thought of it that way without running.

Maybe it’s all in how I got started running, but I’ve never been very competitive with other runners.  I was just so thrilled and even surprised that I was able to run, when I first started, that I never really developed a competitive streak.

Which is funny because I will curse you under my breath during miniature golf.

Don’t believe me? Just ask Brad.

There are times when I wish I was a little faster, like when I see friends shatter their PRs.  PRs that are 10 minutes faster than mine.  When I hear of people having marathon finishing times less than four hours, I do feel a bit envious of their speed.

But, I always come back down to earth and realize how awesome it is that I’m able to run at all.  The ability to run is a gift.  I could wake up tomorrow and not be able to do it.  So I’m appreciating it for what it is right now.  I’m appreciating life for what it is right now.

Running taught me that.

Every time I set a personal distance record I’m reminded of this.

Every time I go a little faster, work a little harder, do a little better than I’ve done before I’m reminded of this.

But, I’m most reminded of this when I’m having a bad run.  When I keep going.  When I push forward.  Maybe sluggishly.  Maybe slowly.  But when I get through a bad run, that’s when I’m reminded of my strength.

And also when I just don’t want to do it.  But I run anyway.  And it feels amazing when I’m done.  I can do bigger things than what I perceive of myself.

And running taught me that.

Which brings me to my next lesson I’ve learned from running…

I’ve never had any real running injuries (knocking loudly on wood as I write this).  I’ve never had anything to overcome physically.  Any obstacles I’ve overcome have been between me and me.  My mind and my body.

Isn’t it funny how you know you can do something and you know it’s good for you and you’ll feel so much better if you just do it, but it’s still such a struggle?

That’s how I feel about running (and exercise in general) sometimes. One half hearted excuse somehow overrides the 5,000 reasons I can come up with for going for a run, for pushing myself to do speed work, for going a little further.

If I can overcome my self doubts and my “but what if I fail?”s, I could probably come up with a solution to solve world hunger.  That’s how big my self doubts are.

It’s taken me years to figure out that a lot of my fears are what holds me back from living out my dreams, rather than just dreaming them.

Running taught me that.

I’ll never be a runner.  I’ll never last more than a mile.  I’ll never pass those skinny long legged girls in a race.

I’ll never run a marathon. I’ll never run two marathons.

Yeah, never say never.

Running taught me that.

Although this is something you usually say in reference to how other people see you, I’m talking about how I see myself.  I tend to pigeonhole myself.  I focus on the negative or at least the less remarkable parts of myself and see that as what I am.

But I’m more than that.

The more I run, the more I’m constantly surprised with myself and what I’m able to do.  I’m more than the box into which I put myself.

And running taught me that too.

What has running taught you?  

What has pushed you to see you for who you really are and what you can be?