What is it about going for a run that makes facing the big things in life feel just a little more manageable? Whether it’s relationship issues or work problems, weighing the pros and cons of a decision, or even reveling in a sweet success, lacing up your running shoes and putting in some miles can feel like just the thing you need to face anything life throws your way.
So, it’s no wonder running can teach us countless life lessons like these:
As every runner knows, the smartest training plans ask you to start slow and get faster — and run for longer and longer distances — over time. Pacing yourself is also crucial, so you don’t come out of the gate like a speed demon and then bonk before your run is over. The same is true for anything you do in life: With the right training and understanding about how to set a sustainable pace, you’ll end up a winner in the long run.
There will be (blissful) times when you lace up your running shoes (or get into a groove in work or your relationship or some other area of your life) and hit your stride, finding yourself in the kind of zone that makes you feel invincible. When that happens, try to stay in that beautiful flow for as long as it lasts.
On the flip side of “flow” is the proverbial wall — the point at which no matter how many hours of preparation or blood, sweat and tears you’ve put into the prep work, you’ll want to abandon all of your efforts and simply stop — stop running, stop working, stop trying to make a relationship succeed, the list goes on. As all runners know well, simply knowing you may hit a wall can actually help you push past it. The same can be said for life. You’re bound to hit roadblocks. Embracing the fact they will appear helps them feel less insurmountable when they show up.
Running, like most sports, is mental. Listen to your inner voice that says you can keep going and odds are, you will. Give in to that inner voice when she tells you to give up, and you’ll be more likely to do just that. That same inner voice tells you things when you’re not running, too, and the words you decide to listen to can make all the difference. So, why not shut up the inner critic and listen to your inner go-getter instead?
Whether you’re a new runner taking run-walk laps around your neighborhood or you’re trying to hit a 7-minute mile pace at your next 10K, running has a way of helping you see you’re probably able to push yourself harder and longer than you initially thought possible. When you ultimately reach a formerly unreachable-seeming goal, it’ll help you clearly see all the other areas in your life where you might be capable of more.
If you’re lucky, you have a support network — a group of family, friends and loved ones who are your biggest cheerleaders. They’re the ones who show up for you at races with inspiring signs and are rooting for you to succeed no matter what. Yet really, at the end of the day, your biggest fan needs to be you. Whether that little voice in your head tells you you’re fast enough to make it to the finish line to PR, capable enough to ask for a raise or strong enough to get through a tough challenge in your life, that inner supporter is the one who’ll be with you forever. So, learn to listen.
It’s only natural to size yourself up to with the runners beside you. And, a little friendly competition can give you an extra push. Yet if you find yourself fixated on the runners — or co-workers, neighbors, friends or anyone in your life for that matter — who are faster, stronger and all-around “better” than you, it’s time to check yourself. In an ideal world, competition like this should offer endless inspiration — not envy.
Sign up for a race that’s just a bit past your comfort zone and there’s a good chance you’ll consider the fact you could come in dead last. It happens to the best of us. But what runners know so well is facing that fear — and signing up for the race despite of it — is the stuff of greatness. If you go through your life not trying what feels a little out of reach because you might fail, you’ll never truly know what you’re capable of accomplishing. When you think about it, not realizing that may be the greatest failure of all.
While running is often about mileage — the number you have to put in to stick to your training plan, or the mile markers you pass on your way to a race’s finish line — it’s also about what happens as you plug along. Maybe it’s a neighborhood kid’s lemonade stand that gives you a much-needed sugar surge halfway through a long training run; maybe it’s an encouraging email from your boss to let you know she appreciates all you’re doing to get a big project finished. In running, and in life, you’ll set and achieve many goals. You’ll also realize that oftentimes, it’s the unexpected beauty you encounter along the way that makes crossing the finish line even sweeter.
We hear the cliché a lot. While it may seem like an overused trope, think about it this way: Marathons are hard. Really hard. They’re also amazingly rewarding. They take planning, training and sacrifice; they’ll also show you what you’re made of and fill you with overwhelming feelings of accomplishment and joy. Doesn’t that sound like a life well-lived to you?