Running can teach you about fitness, but it can also teach you a lot about life. When I first started running, I didn’t really anticipate any benefits beyond free shoes and a good story. But over the last six years, running has taught me a lot of valuable life lessons. Running is so simple. Just one foot in front of the other. But it’s also a source of endless wisdom. Here are five life lessons I’ve learned through running.
There was a time when I thought a half marathon was out of reach. I didn’t consider myself an athlete and thought running races was for an elite group of which I didn’t belong. But then I ran a half marathon.
After that, I didn’t think I could ever run a full marathon. “Double the distance?! There’s no way I could do that,” I’d say to myself. I’ve now done two.
I also didn’t think I could run 5km in under 25 minutes. “I’m just not fast,” I’d say. I’ve now done it several times. Running teaches you that your limits are self-imposed and your body is capable of more than you ever dreamed. It’s powerful thinking that can translate into every aspect of your life.
Running is hard. If it were easy, everyone would do it. But for that reason, running requires mental strength and determination to push through the tough bits. It teaches you about not giving up even when things get really hard. It teaches you to power through exhaustion, frustration, hunger and pain. It’s made me realise that I am so much stronger than I thought I was, both mentally and physically. And when I set my mind to something, good luck getting me to give up.
Running also teaches you about discipline. To meet your goals, you have to make sacrifices, like skipping a night out so you can conquer your long run in the morning. I’ve missed many a glass of wine due to running, but I regret nothing.
The joy of hard-earned accomplishment
For me, the joy of crossing a finish line is hard to match. There is something so damn rewarding about that accomplishment. When things come easily, the joy of accomplishment is somewhat diminished, isn’t it? I mean, anyone could hand you a medal. It may be beautiful and shiny, but it’s so much more meaningful and important when you’ve worked your ass off for it. Running teaches you that great accomplishments follow periods of hard work. A little grit is required in life for anything that’s worthwhile.
How to deal with failure
Running isn’t always about accomplishments. Sometimes you don’t meet your goals, no matter how hard you try. Running teaches you how to view failures as learning experiences. I remember trying so hard to beat my 10K PB of 49:59 and falling short by several minutes twice in one season. After a period of wallowing and self-pity, I was able to objectively look at the reasons why and pick a new goal. (I’m still chasing that sub-50 time, by the way.)
Prepare, and then trust the process
I think my husband would confirm that I am still learning this lesson following my pre-Geneva Marathon meltdown. I am great at catastrophizing and coming up with every possible disaster that could befall on race day, despite how spot-on I executed my training. But I’m working on it. Running is teaching me to trust my own abilities. It’s teaching me to look at my track record of success and trust that if I’ve followed the plan, things are probably going to be OK.