When I first started on my running journey more than 15 years ago, I had one goal in mind: to lose weight. Now, a decade and a half later, I’ve realized that I’ve gained more than I lost.
Pounding your pavement in your running shoes obviously brings a lot of physical benefits. You lose weight (in my case, 25 pounds!), build a stronger heart and gain some leg muscles. But what we forget to realize is how much it helps us mentally.
Beyond that, I’ve realized there are several life lessons I’ve learned through my running adventures.
Things are not always going to go your way. You can do everything in your power, but there are always factors outside of your control that you can’t change. From terrible weather conditions to a tough course, you can only prepare so much to handle what may come your way on race day.
But what’s more important is how you react. That is often more important than the situation itself. They often say this is when you see someone’s true character, but I think this is when you build character. On a long run that doesn’t go your way, do you quit? Or do you push through? Each and every time we go for a run, we are faced with obstacles that we must conquer.
When you’re faced with a hard decision, do you choose the easy path or do you go for the one that may be challenging, but more beneficial in the end? Through running, I’ve learned that I can handle much more than I ever thought.
On top of that, sometimes you need the bad to appreciate the good. We’ve all had those runs. You get out there and your body just isn’t into it. It may mean you slow your pace or cut your run short. It’s hard not to feel disappointed by your performance, but it’s these moments that help you appreciate the great runs. And in life, there will be those moments that challenge you and feel like a struggle. Pushing through these moments helps make the good moments – when everything falls into place – feel so amazing. Knowing that you have to deal with the bad to get the good has made it feel easier to conquer and get through to see the sunny skies ahead.
Hard work will always pay off. Always. No matter if it relates to your running or aiming for the life goals you set in front of you, you have the opportunity to achieve them through hard work.
After my first marathon, which I finished in four hours, I started thinking about qualifying for the Boston Marathon. Maybe, just maybe, I could do it. At the time, the qualifying time for my age group was 3:40.59. Cutting 20 minutes from my time? Could I really do it?
I set my mind to it and set my sights on the 2009 Madison Marathon. At the time, we lived in Florida and those after-work runs were hard. They were painful. But, they were worth it.
I finished with a BQ time.
That being said, running has also taught me that there are things you just can’t explain. In August 2010, my husband and I moved across the country to Brooklyn, NY. I started a new job a few weeks later and at the same time, my grandma fell ill and ended up passing away. I had the 2010 New York City Marathon on my calendar a month later and well, let’s just say training didn’t stay top of mind through all that life threw at me.
I ended up running a nine minute PR that day. To this day, I don’t know how it happened but I know it was my day. There are moments just like this in life, and I’ve learned – thanks to running – not to spend time trying to figure it out but rather enjoy the moment.
So, thank you running. Thank you for the obvious physical benefits, but even more important, thank you for helping me build my mental strength to deal with all that life throws my way.
About the Author
Lora Mays is a Brooks Run Happy Blog Ambassador and shares her running adventures at Crazy Running Girl. She had been running for more than 15 years. Lora is also a Road Runner Certified Running Coach and strives to help others find their love for running. She currently lives in Austin, TX with her husband.