By: Mandy Lange
In an existence that tries every day to break you, it is nothing short of a miracle to fight back for a few minutes. My weapon of choice is my daily run.
For me, running is not about keeping in shape. It’s not about the endorphins (although, with a nod to Elle Woods, it has kept me from killing my husband). It’s not about the competition or the alone time. Running, especially distance running, is about learning to become a better person.
I’ve learned invaluable lessons about life from the rhythmic tread up a steep trail and constant pounding of my shoes on pavement.
1. Attitude Runs Your Life
At the start of the long run, you pick your attitude. Are you facing your run with dread, anticipation, or excitement? The mental aspect of running takes more intense preparation than the physical components. You need to train yourself to feel confident before you set out, to think you’re awesome enough to get through a 10 mile route. If you don’t, you’re doomed to a quick stop and a deflated sense of self.
Life requires a similar training. When you wake up each morning, does your approach to the day involve optimism? Even if you’re dreading something, do you try to see the good in it? When you take the time to prepare yourself mentally, you set yourself up for greater enjoyment of the day’s events and a higher self-confidence at the day’s close.
2. It’s Not About How Fast You Get There
Some runs feel like forever. You’re dripping with sweat, your legs are hurting, your breathing is shallow, you want to stop and collapse- yet you carry on. So what if it took you the better part of an hour? You ran five gruelling miles! When you set a distance goal for yourself, the timing isn’t always important. Your determination is what carries your body to your destination.
Everyone’s life moves at a different pace, and that is okay. Maybe your friends are making huge gains in their career while you just started. Maybe someone else already has their dream house, while you stare longingly at the numbers of your bank account, willing them to rise. When you compare your pace to somebody else’s, you are focusing more on what they are doing than what you can do. Go at your own pace, make decisions that are right for you- it’s the only way to achieve your goals with your integrity intact.
3. Shortcomings Are Inevitable…
It happens sometimes. On mile six of your half-marathon, you cramp up. Or you are three miles away from setting a personal record when your ascent up a hill dashes your hopes. Sometimes, runners set their time or distance goals for themselves so high, that after months of training, they are devastated when they fall short. Everyone could be watching you, or no one could be; you have still failed yourself.
In our lives, failure takes many forms. A critical mistake that costs you a relationship. A preventable accident. A crushing defeat. The pain of it can cripple you for a moment, but there is no need for it to define who you are. Running helps us accept that perfection in life isn’t an attainable reality. The only choice is to keep moving forward.
4. Use Your Failures
I will never forget the first time I hit the “wall” running. I was supposed to be doing an 18 mile run, and on mile 16, I was suddenly gripped by the thought that I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t get rid of the negativity telling me to stop trying, my body seizing up and telling me to quit. So I did. I stopped on the side of a road two miles from my house, and walked home sobbing. After a night of rest, I realized that although I had lost a mental battle, I did not have to let the remnants of my confidence consume me. Instead, I took it easy the following week to prepare myself for the next long run, in which I happily made it to my 18 mile goal.
The number of times you have failed yourself or others are irrelevant to your self-worth. Your imperfections teach you humility and reality. When you embrace your vulnerabilities, you open yourself to new approaches to a challenge. An idea can be presented in a new way. A better method of preparation can emerge. You have the capacity to use your failures to propel yourself toward self-improvement.
5. You Are Capable
If there is anything running imparts upon its participant, it is the potential of will. You force yourself to not to desist. You take a stand against your weakness. You force yourself to work with the mistakes you have made. Running helps you refine yourself every time you take a step. The battle we face to get through our lives does not leave us unscathed, but the sweat, the pain, and the challenges are all worth it when we prevail in the long run.
Image Source: Unsplash/ Francesco Gallarotti