9 Life Lessons I Learned from Running
This post was originally shared as a guest post I wrote on the Brooks Running Blog.
As a runner, I’m a constant student. Listening. Learning. Trying new things. Falling down. Picking myself back up. Getting better. Repeating the process.
While the lessons I’ve learned through the years have helped me improve my pace, hone my nutrition strategy and run happier, my greatest takeaways from running have nothing to do with medals, miles or a time on the clock. They have everything to do with becoming a better person and living a better life.
Here are the nine life lessons I’ve learned from my lifetime of running.
1. We can overcome challenges that seem impossible in the moment.
Challenges that seem unattainable start with a single step. During mile two of a marathon, if we focus on the fact we still have 24 miles to go, it’s easy to get overwhelmed – to question if and how we can make it to the finish. But if we take it one mile at a time and stay present in the moment, it isn’t nearly as daunting. The same is true in life. Whether we’re starting a challenging new job, becoming a parent for the first time or struggling with a relationship, we have to take every challenge one mile – one step, one day, one moment – at a time. Small victories and small actions repeatedly day after day transform into meaningful milestones. Just as in running, progress starts with patience, consistency and believing in ourselves. We can do hard things, but we have to give ourselves permission and time to get there.
2. Nothing worth having ever comes easy.
“There are no shortcuts to anyplace worth going.” This quote from Beverly Sills is one of my favorite thoughts. Doing what’s right, not what’s easy is the secret to success – in running, in the workplace, in life. It takes hard work, dedication, discipline and sometimes sacrifice to achieve our goals. Whether that’s climbing the corporate ladder, teaching a child a valuable lesson, saving for the trip of a lifetime or qualifying for the Boston Marathon, serious opportunities require serious focus. If we’re willing to put in the work, we can and will do amazing things that will give our lives more meaning and purpose than we ever imagined.
3. Our mind is a powerful thing.
Our thoughts often dictate our actions. In running, our body goes where our mind goes. In life, how we think has an effect on how we treat those around us, how we behave and how we feel. Think positive, to feel positive, to live positive. It’s a lot better than the alternative.
4. Heartbreak is temporary.
In running, falling short of a big goal on race day can feel defeating. When we put our heart and soul into training, it can be devastating when that commitment doesn’t pay off on the course. It’s ok to fail. In fact, failing makes us better. Like most things in life, the moments of disappointment are often where we learn our greatest lessons – what to do differently or better in the future. Just like it felt the pain would never go away when we broke up with our first love or got passed up on an interview, we learn something from those experiences that makes us stronger and wiser. And, we often realize there is something better waiting for us down the road. By embracing our moments of hardship or failure, we can better prepare ourselves for triumph and joy on the next journey.
5. What I want in the moment is not always what I want most.
“I can skip today’s workout. It won’t really affect my training if I don’t do it, right?” How many times have you said that to yourself on days you want to sleep an extra hour or would rather do something more fun? It might feel good in the moment to hit the snooze button or eat that extra cookie, but is it helping us get to where we really want to be? This is one of my greatest challenges … to take actions that steer me where I want to go in the long-term versus what feels great in the moment that I’ll regret later. Sure, we need to cut ourselves a break from time to time, but hold onto that big goal or dream and channel it when you feel a moment of weakness coming on.
6. Friends and family are the greatest gifts in life.
Family and friends come first in life. Not running or anything else. Without their love and support, most of us would never be where we are today (or where we want to be) in our running journey. Don’t take them for granted. Put more dedication and focus than you do in your running into your relationships. It is what life is truly all about.
7. We can do anything for 10 minutes (or 20 or 30).
During a challenging moment in a race or long run, I often tell myself I can do anything for just a few more minutes. The same is true in life. From tough conversations, long lines, moments of grief or sorrow, complete boredom – there is light at the end of the tunnel. Stick with it and we can get through it.
8. We are stronger than we think.
The greatest lesson I have learned from running is that I am truly stronger than I think and am capable of more than I ever imagined I could do. I once thought it was impossible to run 8 miles let alone 26.2. I once thought qualifying for the Boston Marathon was a pipe dream. Until I did. Never count yourself out. If you want something, you can achieve it. It’s not always easy, but you have a spark and an extra gear you may not even realize is there.
9. We should live the way we run.
When I think about the way I run, I think about the laughter I share with running partners on pre-dawn runs. I think about the passion I feel for running mentors who have motivated me through the years. I think about the joy I’ve felt crossing finish lines and exceeding my expectations. I think about the inspiration I find in the running community. I think about the sense of empowerment I get from choosing to continue when giving up would be easier. I think of the love I feel when I see my husband or parents on a race course. Laughter. Passion. Joy. Inspiration. Empowerment. Love. These are all things I want in my life. If we all live more like we run, life would be pretty good, right?
What is the greatest life lesson you have learned from running?