I started running for weight loss. I continued running for stress relief and meditation. It made me feel alive. Now, I run for life. I’ve come to realize running is life. Everything about running can be said about life. Here’s some of what I’ve learned about life through running:
Forward movement: La Chica, who is 7 years old, loves to run with me. No, let me rephrase that. She loves the concept of running with me. During the actual running part of our runs, she complains and moans and whines and screams and spits and shoves. She never gives up, but she hates every painful moment. I remind her to just keep going. No matter what, just don’t stop (mainly because the car is parked by the finish line and I need to get her home eventually). You can run/jog/shuffle as slow as you want to, as slow as you need to, but whatever you do, just don’t stop. Keep going. Forward movement. One step in front of the other, and you’ll succeed. You may not know what the course looks like or where you’re going, but just keep going and in the end you’ll be right where you’re supposed to be, at the finish line. Or beer tent.
Each mile is different: A trainer told me once that each mile is different. Some are easier than others, some stronger than others, some more painful than others, some slower than others. No mile is the same. I used to be so black and white, all or nothing. I viewed races or runs either as I completed them, or I didn’t. I ran a good time, or I sucked. Was it good or bad? Since hearing this new perspective, I’ve paid attention and become more mindful in my runs, and sure enough, each mile is different. The first few almost always suck for me–it takes about 3 miles for my body and mind to work out the kinks and aches and really warm into my runs. If I quit before 3 miles due to aches, I would never feel the joy and exhilaration of mile 4, or 7, or 9. I wouldn’t see the heron by the lake or have the pleasure of being attacked by angry geese. Some moments in life are harder and more painful than others. But we need to keep moving forward through the difficulty and pain to get to the joy and wonder in life. Don’t generalize one bad mile into being a bad run. Don’t generalize one crisis or failure or hurt into a bad life. Not every mile is difficult, not every moment is hard. Each step adds up to a mile. One mile at a time. Each moment adds up to a day. One day at a time.
Just breathe: And the mindfulness leads me to breathing. When I’m in a really horrible mile, where I’m just feeling weak or tired, or everything aches, all I want to do is stop and go home. The beauty is I make sure I’ve run far away enough from home that this is not a possibility. This is why I don’t do treadmills well–because I am home so I do indeed stop. So when I absolutely hate the current moment while I’m running, I remind myself that each mile is different, and this too shall pass. And while I’m waiting for it to pass, I breathe. I focus on my breath and my form and my body cutting through the air and space. I breathe my way through the pain and difficulties. When a moment in life is hard or painful, I remember (most of the time), to breathe. And it passes. It may come back again, but I breathe through that too, remembering how happiness and peace and joy are interspersed through life as well. And I remind myself I am grateful to be alive and able to feel the pain, because I know that means I’ll be able to feel the joy that comes later too.
Buddy system: As you can see, running gives me the space to be very introspective. I need and love a lot of time to myself. Running used to be a solitary sport for me not only for thinking, but because I felt very inadequate about my running. I felt I wasn’t fast enough or good enough to run with someone. I felt great embarrassment about my lack of suave and graceful running form and speed. One day, a friend asked if I was interested in running a race with him. I had always refused to run races because in my black and white thinking, I thought races were about winning–why would you call it a race if it was just about participating and not about trying to beat everyone else to the finish line? Call it a playdate or festival or happy hour then, or something! But I agreed to do it with great trepidation and fear, and a promise of Bloody Mary’s post-race. And it turned out to be a lot of fun. I now have a trusted running partner that I really enjoy running races with. He is always supportive and kind and encouraging. I feel safe with him, I trust him. I know he won’t judge me, and he accepts my pace for what it is. Through running, I’ve learned to be vulnerable and to open space to trust someone. I’ve learned doing my best and having fun is what connects us as humans, and that’s the best swag in life.