While perusing highlighted sections and recalling thoughts that had crossed my mind when I read it a couple years back, I realized how powerful that book title was. As I approach my 30th birthday, I have begun to reflect on my life on the run. It has given me a running tour of every place I’ve visited for pleasure, racing or training. It hasn’t changed my life, but has defined it, and it has given me the tools to overcome the highest obstacles I’ve encountered in my path thus far.
Over time, as all relationships do, mine with running has changed and evolved. But overtime, this relationship has solidified. I have learned from the run what most spend a lifetime finding in self-help books, empowerment seminars and from life coaches. I have grown to love my ever changing, never failing therapists that though, sweaty, smelly, heavy or light, have proven to be the most amazing soundboard: my running shoes.
Here are some lessons I’ve picked up along the way:
1) It is not always about the WHOLE picture. Running can be overwhelming. From the starting line, the finish is, of course, INVISIBLE but one step at a time, we make it over the line. Workouts in their totality may seem daunting, but can be finished, ONE set at a time. Even training schedules for longer distance races may seem difficult to commit to for months at a time, but the only way to make it through those 26 week training calendars, is to take the training, week by week. The schedule you have may not be sustainable for long periods of time, but you will be surprised about the things we have time to fit in our schedule when we want to.
2) Charge on the UPHILLs. ‘Uphills’ are hard. They take longer to get through and over the slower you run, so charge ‘uphills’. Not only will it freak out runners you are passing, but you will get to the descent much faster. The faster you go, the faster it’s done. And that is what descents are meant for. They are meant to give you a break. So, flow on the downhills. Don’t press the breaks, but let go. When life gives you an incline, remember that what goes up, must EVENTUALLY come down (unless you are listening to one of your parent’s stories in which they actually traveled UP-HILL both to and FROM school, because #thestrugglewasreal)
3) It’s all about RECOVERY and transition. What you train for is important, but how quickly you recover from workouts is equally if not more important to overall absorption of your training and translating it into improved racing. Within recovery, lies your ability to transition between activities and types of workouts. Even within races, like triathlons, the fastest swimmer, cyclist, or runner will not always win. The athlete who manages to efficiently transition between the three disciplines and perform optimally will take the podium. This also applies to workouts. The ability to recover and transition between sets or intervals, will determine the success of a workout. Anyone can run a FAST repeat…not everyone can sustain an average FAST pace for 10, 15 or 20 repeats.
This reminds me of a quote: ‘There is NO use crying over spilled milk’. This quote has gnawed at me since my son was born. Clearly the person who came up with this quote didn’t have kids. But I now realize, there is no use crying. Not because spilled milk isn’t valuable but because if you are crying over spilled milk, you are losing precious time during which you could be RECOVERING, refilling, and transitioning to your next hypothetical bottle.
4) Trust the training. You have to trust your coach. In this sport and in life, you have to believe in what you are doing or at least surround yourself with people who believe in you when you don’t. My high school coach’s words still resonate, “If you believe 1/10th of 1 % of what I believe you can do, you would be amazed at what you could accomplish”. Sometimes all it takes is to have someone believe so badly in your abilities, that that in itself will take you to new heights of achievement. Once you achieve those new levels, you will slowly start believing too.
5) Bad days prove to you how strong you are. Anyone can run a good race on a good day. The challenge is running a good race with a cramp, or running a strong time with blister you can feel forming on your Achilles. Bad days are what separate good athletes from great ones. Rough conditions are the times where ‘mind over matter’ comes in off the bench, warmed up and ready to score. As athletes, we shouldn’t ask for perfect conditions, we should train under all conditions to be able to perform in any condition. Life too deals imperfect conditions, which we have to, like champs, push through. We can, if we remember what we have been trained to do.
6) Best Travel Companion and Guide. Though recently I’ve been scrolling through IG for scenes of the world I will one day travel to, I have to admit, that running was my first and best travel companion. It has run with me through deserts, through canyons, from shore to shore, through numerous cities across the US, in snow, through mud, in National Parks and on National Cross-Country Collegiate Courses. It has run with me under the Eiffel Tower, through Palace Gardens in Versailles, through Ramblas in Barcelona and through dozens of Plazas all over Italy. It has allowed me to run through towns in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Panama or Guatemala and to breathtakingly surreal places in each of those from cattle-filled fields, to waterfalls, volcanic lakes and to endless trails.
8) Expect the Unexpected. The ‘plan’ is there to guide your training, but life happens. Children get sick, hearts get broken, plantar fasciitis flares, weather gets yucky, work deadlines pounce upon us, jet lag sets-in…………..and there is nothing you can do but ride the wave into shore, pick up your board, and paddle back out. The point is to live the journey all the way to the finish, not make the finish the be all and end all. That moment will come to pass too quickly, and then you will be left with an emptiness that can’t be filled. Expect that the only constant will be CHANGE.
9) It is a Love-Hate Relationship: Sometimes while running, I can almost hear my heart mutter “What are you doing to me?”, and all I can muster in grunting back is “I could say the same”, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Running is the best therapy. But just like any other activity that makes you sweat, it is well worth it! Coming up on 23 years, it is the longest, most understanding relationship I’ve had. We’ve had a few moments where we have had our differences, but not once have we muttered the D word: DONE. The key has been consistency, never giving up, never separating and never walking away from each other. Always side-by-side, stride for stride.
10) It keeps my heart pumping. Running has introduced me to strangers that have become friends and friends who have become family. Years from now, I know we will still be in one another’s lives. I don’t know where, I don’t know how quickly or slowly, I don’t know who will be running by my side….But I know I will be running, chasing sunrises or running towards sunsets.
I can’t wait to spend the next 30, 40, 50 years finding out where “My Life on the Run” will take me, what obstacles it will help me overcome, and what wonders of the world it will bring me to appreciate more dearly.