I suspect most people still reading this blog are surprised I haven’t written a post about running. Anyone who knows me in real life knows me as a runner. It doesn’t matter if it’s family, friends, neighbors, classmates, coworkers, or random bar buddies. Everyone can size me up in 2 minutes and figure out I’m a runner.
When I share with someone that I write a blog she inevitably says something like “oh, is it about running?!” I say no, and this surprises her because what else would I write about if it wasn’t running?
I’ve intentionally avoided bringing up the topic much here in this blog. I mentioned running once in the About page. This blog is about my habits, not running. If I only wrote about running I would have 3 blog posts instead of 24. There’s only so much I have to say about running itself. With that being said running is my dominant habit and it’s something I can no longer ignore. Now is as a good a time as any to write about I because today I will be running my 19th marathon.
Marathons are oddly addicting. I ran my first marathon in 2004 and swore immediately after finishing that I would never do one again, but here I am quickly approaching 20 with no end in sight. Running marathons brings out my competitive side and I have an aggressive goal for this race, but it really doesn’t matter if I beat that time or not. What matters is that I have been running consistently for 12 years now.
Many of my friends now would be surprise to find out I didn’t always run. Let’s just say I had other priorities in college and shortly thereafter. I let myself go and weighed about 25 pounds more than I do now. My friend Jamie says she couldn’t picture me that way, but who needs imagination when you have pictures for a historical record.
God, I was miserable. I liked to complain more than actually doing something. I waited for things to come to me and they never did. I started some little projects, but never saw them through.
Things started to change when I recommitted myself to running in 2003. I always enjoyed running, but previously hibernated when the weather got cold and had to start all over when the spring came. 2003 was different. I told myself there’s no stopping, no months long breaks from running. Fortunately that has been the case for more than decade.
The lessons I’ve learned from running are the bedrock and what I believe.
Keep things simple – I tend to overthink and complicate my life, but running is my simplifier. I’m hard-pressed to think of an activity that is simpler at its core than running. All you need is a pair of shoes and a little motivation. Just head out the door and go.
Running showed me that focusing on 1 thing helps when life is overwhelming.
Patience matters – I’m not going to lie, starting to run for the first time (or after a months long break) really sucks. It takes time to see real results in any self-improvement projects. Rarely do you receive instant gratification for doing the right thing (and when you do it might be more luck than skill).
Running showed me that any changes worth making could take time to see results. It’s worth the wait.
Persistence matters – Sooner or later you’re going to have a set back. It’s easy to give up on something when things are not going your way. As I mentioned above, it sucks to start running. It’s important to fight through struggles, not just for the sake of patience but also to show yourself that you’re capable of doing so.
Running showed me that stopping is the only real failure. If you really want something you need to keep trying. Persistence pays off eventually.
Small change, big indirect results – Running also has a more practical impact on my life. Running itself made me feel better as I got in better physical shape, but it also had cascading effects:
- Running got me to pay attention to what I eat because when I ate junk food I felt like garbage during the run. Now I have a much healthier eating habits.
- Running got me to pay attention to my sleeping habits because when I slept poorly I was lethargic on runs. Now I’m more mindful of my sleep hygiene.
- Running taught me to fight through the rejection of a long job search. Now I have a job that I care deeply about.
- Running allowed me to meet many new people through fun runs and club teams. Now I have a great group of friends that I enjoy being around. I also stopped trying to be friends with people that I didn’t even like.
In general I like the person I am now. I’m the same person I always have been, but I’m better at it because I run. That’s probably why people identify me as a runner. I exude it because running affects so much of my life.
Running isn’t for everyone, but some form of exercise should be. If it’s not running it’s something else. Maybe it’s yoga. Maybe it’s cycling. Maybe it’s basketball. Maybe it’s golf. (Hell it can even be frolf.) Whatever it is, it’s definitely out there. Go find it. One small change can lead to many big changes.
Thanks for reading.