My daughter is celebrating her sixteenth birthday and I started running just after she was born. I can’t believe I’ve been running for sixteen whole years, I didn’t think I’d manage sixteen seconds when I started out!
This has made me reflective about my relationship with running, what the journey has been like, what it has taught me. I thought I’d share in case it helps you, encourages you or you can identify with my lessons. There are honestly hundreds but here are the six I think I value most:
- Running is not just putting one foot in front of the other. Well, it is but that makes it sound really easy and I honestly wouldn’t say I’ve found it easy. There is always so much to learn and I continue to do so. And in order to run consistently over many years (and into the future) you need to do more than just run. You need the strength work, the mental fitness, the right diet, the list goes on.
- Running affects every part of your life. I can honestly say that running changed my life. I ended up with a new career! But more than that, running gave me skills and self-belief that made that career change possible. It taught me I was capable of way more than I thought, that I could do very hard things if I just broke them down into little chunks – running a marathon was the perfect preparation for writing a book. It taught me how to manage my time and use windows of opportunity in a day. It brought me friends, travel and a deep knowledge that I am strong.
- Running is 90 percent mental. You hear people say this and I do agree. From finding the motivation to get out there to keeping going when you want to stop, so much of your running success is in your head. But I would also add that so many of the benefits are mental too. The meditative effects of running gave me time to think, dream and connect with my inner self. I suddenly had this super power that could turn a bad day into a good one. A power that could solve problems, come up with ideas and process emotions. I started running for the physical benefits but I definitely continue for the mental ones.
- Running motivation is always a struggle. Crazy isn’t it when I know how much I get from running that I still find it really difficult to get out and do it! I don’t look forward to every run, to be honest, I’d probably rather not go most of the time. But of course, as every runner knows, once you’ve done it it’s always worth it. I’ve developed strategies over the years to keep my motivation up, booking a race, non-negotiable leading of my 261 running club or arranging a run with a friend. I’ve also learnt not to overthink it and to just get out of the door before I engage my brain and have time to talk myself out of it. But it is an ongoing effort and it’s so easy to see why people don’t run.
- Running gives you a deeper appreciation of nature. Running in all weathers and all seasons is such an eye-opener. Even on the same routes there’s something new to discover. I notice the buds in spring, the frost patterns in winter, the way the air feels and smells and the noises I hear are different in every season. I’ve relished in those long runs in the hills over the years. Running with multiple layers on a cold, crisp day, my hood up in driving rain and a vest top and sunnies in the blazing sun, no run is ever the same and it’s such a privilege to spend that time in nature.
- Running will always be there. Sometimes you feel great and love your runs, other times you can’t get yourself in gear, miss runs and lose the desire completely. I’ve discovered that a roller coaster of running is normal. It doesn’t matter. You can’t be on your A game all the time. Life throws different challenges at you and while you know running will help and may be part of the solution, sometimes you just need a break from it. From marathon success to struggling round parkrun, every runner has a very up and down journey but that’s OK. Running doesn’t mind, it will always be there for you, ready to welcome you back when you’re ready. It won’t give you inferior service or bear a grudge because you went off it for a while. It will still be there to energise, nourish and strengthen you.
Thank you running for 16 wonderful years. I intend for there to be many more to come. These are just a fraction of the lessons I’ve learnt and I know there are still many more that I will have the pleasure of discovering. I’ve had a life without running and one with and I can definitely say that running is a friend I will not be letting go of. It makes life better and it makes me better too.
I would love to hear about the lessons that running has taught you. Share them in the comments here or on my social media.
Photo credit: Ginny Koppenhol Photography. https://www.gkoppenholphotography.com/