What running has taught me about life

I’ve been a runner since the day I learned to walk. From my early days of gymnastics, to running cross country in high school, to 30 minutes ago when I was jogging alongside the Columbia River, running has stayed with me longer than any other physical activity. It’s my workout bestie.

When I came across a job posting for a freelance lifestyle magazine writer a couple weeks ago, I happily applied for the ‘Running’ column. My first post will be published there in the next couple weeks, so I thought I’d take a few minutes today to celebrate this opportunity by sharing the important life lessons running has taught me through the years.

1. Listen to your body (and your gut). Get in touch with it. Understanding what real pain is makes you nearly impervious to the small-to-medium pains, and it allows you to push harder than the average person. This translates to more realms than just the physical.

2. The mind is powerfully useful, when used properly. A lot of self-talk happens in the mind of most runners. For me, I became my biggest cheerleader during my races in high school, out of pure necessity. I am competitive, and telling myself how awesome I am generally produces favorable results, so that’s where my mind would go. Unfortunately, I didn’t apply that lesson much outside of sports during high school; I was pretty self-conscious and hard on myself, never feeling like I really fit in. Now I tell myself that I can do anything I pursue, and like magic, I’m succeeding in creating the life I want.

3. Nothing easy is worth doing. When you grow up running in the heat and humidity of Houston, TX, running is often equated with nausea, profuse sweating, and (if you’re white as my Irish comrade Conan O’Brien) accidental sunburns. I love running and value my health, but I still cringe when I think of all the 5am practices I put myself through in this lifetime. What makes it worth it? The strength I built. The rush of endorphins. The knowledge that I gave something I love everything I’ve got. Medals are nice, too, when they happen.

4. You don’t have to go fast to go far. If you try to sprint the first mile of your 3 mile race, you’ll often get burnt out by the end. However, if you pace it out, you’ll still go the same distance, but you’ll have that kick that helps you finish up strong and perhaps place higher. In other words, you don’t have to figure out everything right now in your life, and you don’t ‘win’ by getting that high-paying career, that house, or that marriage the fastest. You’ll go farther and build greater momentum through testing yourself in different arenas, showing up for practice, and committing hard when you’ve fallen in love with what you’re doing.

Whether you’re running marathons, running away or running through your weeks to get to the weekends, take this moment to assess whether you are sprinting through your life, instead of actively building toward something you love. Listen to your gut. Recognize the power of your thoughts, and the true control you have over them. Embrace the difficult moments that come up, they are character building.

With courage, love, and intensity,

Kristen

Photo credit: lululemon athletica / Foter.com / CC BY

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