When I was young, I used to be crushed by defeat. I might not have shown it on the outside, but inside it would take me weeks to recover from a failure. I would go into a tailspin and, honestly, I’m not sure if I actually recovered or just tucked those moments away and secretly carried them around for much of my adult life. When I began running, it was for many of the reasons one might think: it was a hour break from my young children, it alleviated the symptoms of post-partum depression, and it helped me fit into my clothing. Then, as my children grew, my depression disappeared and my pant sized dropped; things changed.
I found that I was kind of fast and would often place in the top 10% at races. I began racing because it felt good to receive the attention that comes with doing well in a race. I craved the outside attention, but inside I was still using hateful self talk and punishing myself in the form of agonizing workouts and unrealistic goals. This may sound odd, but making myself hurt made me feel alive. Inwardly, I told myself I needed to be chastised because deep down I felt “not good enough.” Over the last few years, I have slowly evolved as a runner. Not that I don’t enjoy winning my AG or find some satisfaction from being fit, but now running has an entirely different meaning to me than it did when I started.
Running is so humbling. It has taught me to be able to take defeat with style and grace. How to let dark moments go, to leave them in the past and move on. It has taught me about impermanence and that there will be many moments of glory and just as many defeats. I have become comfortable knowing that all things change and with hard work and commitment you can achieve, even without an exact picture of what that achievement looks like. It has taught me not to lie to myself, to tame the voice in head that says I’m better than I really am, for that voice will bring you down on race day if you’ve set your goals to high. You have to be OK with who you are right here and now. It has taught me that what seems like the end of the world is actually an opening of doors for something new to emerge. It has taught me not to hang on to a specific belief, if you don’t have an open mind eventually you will be brought down, crushed, and defeated.
Oftentimes I ask myself “WHY?” “Why do I continue to take part in a sport that is, more times than not, painful, exhausting, even torturous?” The answer is simple: It teaches me who I am and what I’m made of. It is a test of my will, strength, and courage. It teaches me to believe in myself even when others do not.
Running is my identity. I don’t mean a 26.2 sticker, “I’m a Boston Qualifier,” or “I finished an Ultra” type of identity. It is much deeper than that. Running pushes me through the door of human-ness. It brings to the surface every tiny fault and self doubt, every flaw and lie you tell yourself, and throws it in your face. It cultivates honesty within and teaches how to be comfortable with pain. For every wonderful and euphoric moment you have in our sport, there is an equally painful one, so it reminds you not to be attached to either one. You begin to realize that life is no different, it’s also full of ups and downs. Running has been my life manual, my confidant, and my counselor on how to live my life to the fullest.
Each run has a life of it’s own. It traps an intense moment, condensing it into an individual microcosm, and by doing so forces us to experience the best and worst of what the world has to offer. Every time we put feet to ground is a lesson in moving forward one step at a time. With each stride we learn, let go, and push away our limitations to make way for new experiences. Who knows what the future holds? It might be bigger, better, or completely different than you could have ever imagined.
Why do I run? It allows me live life to the fullest. It helps me grow as a person into the best possible version of myself.
Take a step outside and find yourself in running. It is the human race, after all, and who doesn’t want PR?
What lessons has running taught you?