I was blessed enough to have two of my greatest running teachers be my parents, always willing to step in and provide guidance or company for a good long run, teeming with training advice as well as feedback on whatever teenage dilemma I was facing at the time. But running itself has taught me many life lessons I could not have solved any other way.
1. It’s all about the balance.– In running, I’ve had to develop this sense of balance. How many miles of training is hard enough to get fast but not too hard where I get injured? How fast in a race is slow enough not to burn out but fast enough not to under-deliver? Life is the same way… we must offer much of ourselves much of the time, but we can’t give all of ourselves to every commitment that comes our way or we will end up overspent and with nothing to give to the next worthy cause that comes along, not the least of which is our own self-preservation.
2. Make a plan.– In running, there’s always a short-range plan (i.e. what I’m going to run tomorrow morning) as well as a long-range plan (i.e. a more flexible plan of what I’m going to do for the rest of the season). This way, I have a general framework into which all my workouts fit, and I make room for other things as how they fit into my framework. I know what does and doesn’t mesh with my goals. In life, having such a framework allows me to decide what does and doesn’t fit with my needs and allows me to plan what will and won’t help me succeed. Not that I can’t do anything just because it’s fun because certainly, I want to remain sane, as well… just that these should remain in balance (see #1) with those activities I commit to for a purpose.
3. Make a running bucket-list. — It’s all too easy to get into the day-to-day grind of survival. 60 minutes out and back. Every day. With no sense of why. Having “greater goals” out there like a Boston Qualifier or running the New York City Marathon or breaking 18 or 20 or whatever in the 5k… goals that are achievable but will require stepping up your game and really committing to some hard work but that will leave you feeling proud when you’ve achieved them… these are the kind of goals that are worth having. These kind of goals get you out of bed when its 15 degrees outside. Make it one that’s meaningful to you. Your neighbor’s goal isn’t going to get YOU out of your comfortable, heated bedroom out to your uncomfortable, rain-pelted driveway, tights and all. In life, too, it’s good to have passionate goals that make me want to jump out of bed in the morning, and those are personal goals that innervate me and not the person next to me. I’d get through the day if I only had things I enjoyed, but goals are the superpowers that give it all some greater meaning.
4. Failure is only a word we use to label an event.– There have been many races that I’ve bombed but few have been abject failures. There have been many experiences in my life that have not gone according to plan, but few of those have been abject failures, either. In almost all of these cases, I have been able to extract some gem of something useful on which to build a new something, some prism from which a new tower of truth could be built. If all we can take from the first building are its charred ashes to build the second building, then the first building was not a total waste– it just had to undergo purification and transformation before it was usable again. That’s the way it is with life experience. Few of our life experiences are so terrible that they actually get jettisoned, most just get prettied up and then reused in some novel capacity totally different than they were originally intended. Flexibility is key.
5. Support is everything. — In the past year, my favorite running moment was at the Charlottesville Half Marathon, when my sister, then a second-year at University of Virginia running her first half marathon, caught up to me around 12.5 miles. She caught up to me, and we kicked it together to the finish, and though I wanted to give up so badly, I gave that final sprint all I had for her, and we hugged as soon as we crossed the finish line. In running, as in life, she is and has always been my best friend, and I am blessed for it. It is clear to me that without our supporters in running and in life, we would be incapable of pursuing our dreams and our visions because we would be but lone dreamers without the powers behind us claiming force behind our visions.