buckle up — this is gonna be a long one. 🙂
if we’re totally honest, all of us runners have experienced the highest of running highs and the lowest of running woes. we have days where we bound out of bed completely energized and stoked to hit the pavement, and we have days where the mere thought of picking up our sneaks from our bedroom floor seems an impossible task.
so much of this is mental, yes, but so much is physical as well. we’re tired. our legs feel like steel bands. every step hurts. we suddenly have some weird new knee pain that’s driving us crazy. Aleve can only do so much. running just seems HARD, all the sudden, when it never did before. and yet we know will keep doing it, even when every muscle in our screaming legs is begging otherwise.
i mean, i don’t have the answers. it seems like there could be a million reasons, or no good ones at all. we’re over-worked or under-slept; we’ve done too many leg workouts recently; we don’t stretch nearly enough; we’ve eschewed rest days.
this week, i’ve been feeling like i have to teach myself to walk again every time i stand up, my legs are that sore. every step is a humility lesson in inflexibility; each muscle aches more than the next. i want a hot tub and an ice bath and a physical therapist and a bed and days of pajamas and couches. walking hurts; running just feels hard. 9-minute miles are sometimes seeming like a challenge.
this is where i take a step back and think about my relationship with running, and why i love it so, and deal with this valley. i have had so many peaks, and considered myself a strong runner for a long time. the truth is, it IS hard on my body and i need to be okay with taking it slow for a bit if i’m hurting, and tend to myself til i feel up to speed again.
and this is hard for me. i hate feeling like i’m regressing instead of getting better. i should be a good runner. i shouldn’t be feeling this way.
i don’t want to feel like “i should” in regards to running. i’ve chosen to do this because i love this, and i don’t ever want to lose that. what i need to do at these times is revise my mentality about it and choose to remember
and this is where i think about all the running has given me, and how running is a metaphor for life in so many ways.
*teaches me patience. wouldn’t it be fabulous if we were amazing at everything the very first time and had no learning curve? well, yes and no — at least in regard to running, for me. the journey from struggling to run a mile in high school to running a marathon last year has been one of the most defining aspects of my life, and has truly taught me the value of committing whole-heartedly to something and seeing it transform your life in so many ways over time. it’s given me a long, difficult, beautiful, amazing journey upon which to look back and say, “i didn’t give up on this. not when it was hard; not when i was hurting or frustrated; not when i was tired. i did this.” good things happen over time, they say. i’ve seen this come true in my running life, and i hope i can apply this to other areas of my life and use my running journey as inspiration.
*challenges me like whoa. at times in my life when i feel like i’m completely under-challenged and frustrated by not having something to work super hard at, i’ve turned to running and focused on pushing myself to new limits and goals in this area. running 10 miles, running a half marathon, running a marathon, running when you’re exhausted — these are all challenges. overcoming them fills your days with small & big victories and reminds you that you CAN set goals and overcome them, and that you ARE capable of pushing yourself forward. i think we all forget this, from time to time. i know i do.
*adds structure. if i didn’t run, i swear i’d be all over the place. when should i wake up? what do i do with my free time? what are early mornings good for, anyway? where do i turn to unleash my frustrations or sadness or anxiety? what do i even have that’s really MINE in my life, anyway? running is one answer to all of these, for me. and it’s a fabulous one.
*great talking point. “so, tell me about yourself…what do you like to do?” great. i have a ready answer for that. runners love to talk running (and we probably drive the rest of you nuts), and when you meet other people who totally get your obsession, the convos just flow. i love being able to connect with people over such a life-defining, health-oriented passion.
*it, like, makes me wanna be healthy. err, well, duh. i mean, yes, i’m sort of obsessed with living a healthy life style, and i owe the origins of this to running. i started running to get into some semblance of shape, and that began to transform my thinking about health: about how i treated my body, about my food choices, about what it means to be strong and fit rather than a certain clothing size or image. now, i want to feel good and take care of myself so that i can continue to run and feel good about myself. i don’t run because i need to shed the cupcake weight. heck, i don’t even like cupcakes, or eat many sweets at all. my whole mentality about what it means to be healthy has changed, all because i became a runner.
*the wonder of family legacies. my grandpa was a runner before he identified himself as anything else. my father was, and still is, a lifelong runner, and it was his influence that spurred me to fall in love with running as well. i’m forever grateful to him, and i love that we have this connecting point to talk about. he’s become my biggest fan and is as excited about me running marathons as i am, i think, and i know i wouldn’t have started running — or kept with it — if it wasn’t for him telling me over and over again that it was the only “real” way to exercise. he can be stubborn and set in his ways, for sure, but in this case, it really molded my life. thanks, dad. 🙂
i’m sure there are a mess of other things i could expound upon, but the point is, running has changed my life irrevocably and for the wayyyyyy better, and i want to maintain an attitude of gratitude rather than allow myself to get too bummed when i’m feeling “less than.” i will always be a runner, God willing, and as in any relationship, i’ll have to take the good with the not-so-good. that’s life. and it’s pretty darn spectacular.
What in your life has taught you so much about yourself?
Anyone have similar experiences with running? Why do you love it so?