This is nothing compared to life.
That’s what I told myself at mile 13 – when my energy dropped, and stomach growled. I was on a 16-mile training run in preparation for the Dallas Marathon.
Things got uncomfortable, but one thought kept me going: “I’ve survived life thus far. Sixteen miles on the trail – I can do.”
The rules that get me through my runs and training are the same rules that get me through work, and life in general.
When it starts to burn, push harder. Does running feel great all the time? Nah. Do I want to stop when discomfort starts? Yup. But discomfort doesn’t mean it’s time to stop. It’s a sign that I’m outside my comfort zone – which is where I want to be. I tell myself that after this push up the hill, things will get better. Discomfort is okay. After all, what’s life without a little tension? So on the trail and in life, I never back away from the burn.
Discipline pays off. Running as a sport takes discipline. Between the diet, workout regime, and scheduling as you adjust life to fit into your runs – there are many times when you have to do things you don’t want to do, and refrain from things you actually want to do – like that second glass of wine or happy hour with the girls. But discipline keeps you on track. In the words of Michael Jordan: “If you do the work, you get rewarded. There are no shortcuts in life.”
Quitting is not an option. When I get tired, I remind myself that I wouldn’t quit in the office, so why quit on my run. And when work is wearing me out, I think of my grit on the trail and act accordingly. The same rules apply no matter where you are. I have eight 5ks, three 10ks, and one half marathon under my belt.* I’m not the fastest, most graceful, or most fit person out there, but none of that matters to me. What matters is that I start and finish.
Goals – gotta have them. I set goals that stretch me. I set the big goal first, then establish a series of smaller goals to get me there. I signed up for the marathon, then stuck to an organized training regime, then signed up for various runs (including my first half marathon) in preparation for the big fish. In pursuit of the new big goal, I did a few things I’d never done before.
Smile. You never know where it may lead. Much happiness exists wherever runners are. We nod, smile and wave at each other. Sometimes it’s a yell of encouragement – a “looking good” or “you can do it!” Every now and then there’s a hi-five or thumbs up. I remind myself to make eye contact and smile, because even brief positive interactions create good energy. This is no different than being at work. I remind myself to smile there too, and to slow down and enjoy the interactions. Do you ever find yourself fixing your coffee or heating your lunch in a hurry, trying to get done before someone comes in because small talk is not your thing? I do. But if I can hi-five a stranger in the park, I can make small talk with colleagues I spend 40+ hours a week with.
Patience is a virtue. I told a friend I was headed out on my longest run ever. Sixteen miles. She asked how long that would take. I told her it would take about three hours. Her response: “That’s why I don’t run. Three whole hours running? That demands a lot of patience.” Before that conversation, I had never thought about the amount of patience running required. There is the patience needed to train, and the patience needed on that long, grueling run.
And lastly, give credit (to yourself) where credit is due. It wasn’t until recently that I felt comfortable calling myself a “runner.” In my mind, runners broke records, earned medals, and made crowds cheer. “I do none of that,” I thought. But I do. I break my own records. My new-found comfort with calling myself a runner – a word that before seemed too grand an adjective for my level of athleticism – is only one of the ways I have evolved as a runner. I am okay being one of the world’s most “Okayest” runners.