Lessons from Running

a group of baddies posing after finishing the RAGNAR Race

This photo was taken at the completion of a RAGNAR Race we did a few years back. Good times, exhausting times had by all.

I run.

The simplicity of one foot after the other striking the ground—finding the correct breathing pattern—accomplishing something despite my desire to do anything other than run is magical for me. Running provides me a sense of peace and calm that nothing else has, thus far. So, do I recommend it for you? If you like to run, sure. If you don't know, then find out. Find what gives you that release for those precious few moments. But, for now, for me, that's running.

Sometimes when I run, I fly.

How many miles you run or how fast you run them isn't as important as who you run those miles with

I do a lot of running by myself. The majority of my runs have been with others, though. There's a camaraderie that comes from shared suffering, I think. Running is a weird kind of self-inflicted torture. Running isn't all that exciting; it's boring. But that shared experience is something else.

I coached new runners for a few years after running my two marathons (San Francisco and Los Angeles). The feat of running one marathon was nuts, and it was never something I thought I could do. But running two marathons? Get out of here. But I did just that!

I did many training runs with my running group, many of the folks in that group were friends, and some I didn't have a close bond with, but we bonded through our running and our shared suffering, I guess.

The first group I trained gave me a little trophy that I still have to this day, and it reads: “How many miles your run or how fast you run them isn't as important as who you run those miles with.” It's true, and it doesn't have to be specific to running.

Whoever is with you on your journey, be they friends, colleagues, family, your partner, they are what matters most along the journey. So check in on your people, reach out to people, let them know you love them and you're thinking about them.

Running is 90% mental and 10% physical

When I first started running, we had a three-mile route we'd do. I would always gas out at this big hill towards the end of that run. I was so frustrated with myself. Why couldn't I get over this damn hill?? It became a nemesis.

With repetition, a little fire, and determination, I remember the first time I fought to push my way up the hill without stopping—the downhill on the other side was a reward in and of itself. At that point, I realized how some things are more mental than you think they are. Running encapsulates that notion for me.

When you're going up a hill, it's easy to get caught up in the thought about that hill “oh, it's such a steep hill! I hate f*cking hills so much! This is going to be too hard; I'm just going to walk.” But, on the other hand, there are so many books about the power of positive thoughts, faith, belief, or whatever. I've read some of them—Psycho-Cybernetics comes to mind. And to a degree, I believe that the power of positive thought has merit.

However, I think it's less about positive thoughts and more about framing the difficult thing ahead of you. You can see the big hill as a crushing challenge, and you'd be right to think that. But, you also have the option to frame that big hill any way you want. You have that choice. Maybe you don't think about the hill being so steep, perhaps you think about the hill as a means to an end, and perhaps that end is a yummy dinner or an excellent pint of beer at the end. Sometimes you get to make that choice, and wherever you can, choose to frame an obstacle differently than that thing that is ready to stop you in your tracks.

When I stopped seeing the hill as my enemy, as my roadblock, and as just any other thing I had to do, it helped, my perspective changed, my attitude changed, I didn't dread it, I rose to meet it. It made all the difference.

Running is the culmination of getting the little things right

Running is deceptive—I guess anything that looks simple is deceptively complex when you don't know what goes into it, and people who have developed expertise make the things they do look easy. I guess that's what expertise looks like.

Running isn't only putting one foot in front of the other. A lot more goes into it. You need to learn to breathe well for yourself. You need good, well-made, great-fitting shoes, the right socks that don't slip off the heel, that don't cause blisters. You need to find your stride, your rhythm. So many little details need to go right to make running a positive experience.

And that's the thing with anything, not just running. Right? Getting something to look effortless, to function properly, requires getting a lot of small details right before any of it works the way it's supposed to. And that takes time, planning, practice, and, more importantly, patience.

Spend money on good shoes. Always.

If you're going to start running, spend good money on your shoes. Your shoes matter. Don't just go to some big box store or somewhere at the mall. And definitely don't order your shoes online (unless you know what kind of shoes you want and you know how they fit).

Go to a running shop. Get fitted for your shoes, try on different styles of shoes. Figure out if you're a pronator or supinator. Take your time, ask questions; no questions are dumb questions, mind you.

This goes for life in general, I think. You don't need to spend a lot right away for a tool in many cases. Instead, find out what the tool is supposed to do, buy a value-priced version of it, if it doesn't do the job, then spend more money on a better tool that does the job better. Yes, I know I just contradicted what I said above. Hear me out, though. Spend good money on quality when you can. If you're not sure, buy the cheap thing first, see if it does the job and if it gets to the point where it can't do the job, but the expensive thing. Unless we're talking running shoes, always spend good money on running shoes.

I've never regretted a good run or a bad run

I've never regretted a run. I've never felt let down after a run. Running is my jam. Running isn't easy, and I hate it as I am starting on a route. I'm usually pissed, why am I even here? But, eventually, I come to the end, and I'm huffing and puffing, and I'm elated that I did the thing.

Life is full of such moments apart from running. Think about it. How often are you faced with things you don't want to do? So you put it off, and eventually, you do the thing, and a sense of relief washes over you. You exhale, and you know you did the job.

For me, there's a lot of stuff like that. Communication isn't my forte. Specifically, communicating my feelings. I have spent a large part of my life avoiding conflict, avoiding having difficult conversations, playing peacekeeper, etc. You could say I have a problem being vulnerable and opening up. Those times I've been vulnerable, though, I've never regretted it—even if the outcome wasn't what I wanted, I never regretted making my feelings and needs known.

Being vulnerable is an act of love for yourself and those around you. It's how you communicate what you need, and setting boundaries are closely related to vulnerability, too. Together, being vulnerable and setting boundaries is how we tell people how we can love and respect one another.

Remember where you are and where you're not

It's usually mile one or mile two, hell, sometimes even mile three: Why am I doing this? I hate this so much; I'd rather be sleeping! Sometimes running to be like that tho.

When it's nighttime or early morning, I try to remind myself, hey; you're not on the couch. You're out here getting your miles; you're doing something good for yourself.

Sometimes, it helps me be present and learn to live in that moment of rigidity of left foot, right foot and left foot (unless I want to fall on my face by being distracted). So I need to praise myself for what I'm doing and what I'm not doing. We always make choices. Sometimes we get those choices right, and sometimes we don't. I have a terrible habit of lingering on the poor decisions I've made and not enough time praising the good decisions.

Running is a reminder as much as it is a practice to appreciate where you are and set your sights on where you want to be.

It's not as simple as thinking your way out of a tough spot. I'm not that naive. People have monumental struggles that require more than positive thinking, for sure.

The above said I think it's also important to honor where you came from and the progress you've made to get to where you are in the present moment. Go on now. Pat yourself on the back. You deserve it. (Pats self on the back)

Running has taught me I'm more powerful than I believe

When I crossed the finish line at the San Francisco marathon, I fell to my knees and screamed out at the top of my lungs. Even though I envisioned doing just that, crossing that finish line and shaking an angry fist and yelling at the sky, I didn't think I'd ever do the thing. I had setbacks; I had a history of not completing things, all of the evidence pointed at my inability to not get it done. But I did it anyway.

We are more powerful than we think we are. But, unfortunately, I get caught up in routines, thought patterns that hamstring my motivation, and negative beliefs I have about myself prevent me from trying a thing.

I realize not everyone struggles with these negative images of self, but I do. I've struggled with it since I was a kid. Sometimes those thoughts drag me down, and I believe those thoughts, the ones that say you're not worthy, you can't make someone else happy, let alone yourself, stop trying! You'll never amount to anything. You're going to die, poor. Your sadness is your fault. I could go on, but this is some of what I struggle with internally.

I've proven to myself that I can do what I set my mind to. I've proven that I'm more resilient than I thought. This realization didn't come out of the blue one day. I had to seek help; I had to do some reading, some self-actualization, allow myself to care and love for myself; I had to find a therapist and talk to them. I had to admit that I needed help and support.

Realizing my power has helped in some ways, but seeking help and talking to a therapist has helped unearth other aspects of myself that need attention, work, patience, and compassion. Running helps me illustrate this fact in a way that makes sense to me.

I think most of us have that escape or that thing that helps us be more than we thought we were capable of. Although sometimes it isn't easy to know what that is, I realized these things, lessons, or whatever when I was on a run.

Just know you're more powerful than you know, and you deserve the good things in life, and you got this. I promise.

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