I spent a very long time trying to figure out how to enjoy running. When I would see someone running effortlessly I used to think to myself, "It can't be impossible! They don't even look like they are suffering!" So I would put on a couple of sports bras, my workout clothes and a pair of shoes, take off, and quickly realize that running was still awful.
Then shit hit the fan and I got desperate enough to just suffer through my first few runs. I needed a way to mute the voice in my head that played my doubts and insecurities on repeat. What better way to run from my problems, than to actually run from my problems? So I ran. And one week turned into two weeks and in a very painful blink of an eye, I had run my first half marathon. Now, here I am getting ready to run my fourth and fifth marathons, the Berlin Marathon and the New York City Marathon.
Running has taught me a lot about myself over these past two and a half years and I didn't anticipate any of it! It’s has shaped who I am today and oddly, it's influenced so much of my life that has nothing to do with running. Here are some of the things running has taught me that I never anticipated --
1. Pain Can Lead to Strength.
"It's in discomfort where change lives." That's one of my favorite sayings because I'm the Queen of giving up if something is uncomfortable. I hate working out! I hate being in unnecessary pain! But I was in a lot of pain emotionally and seeing myself progress each week as I ran further helped me manage my pain emotionally. Running helped me realize that the pain I’m in now can make me a stronger and more resilient person if I start working through it.
2. I Have To Do The Work.
I am very charming, very lazy and I am really good at making excuses. I had created a habit of getting by and doing only what was absolutely necessary. You can’t do that when you run a marathon. You actually have to do the work to make it to the finish line and running helped me apply myself to the difficult things that I'm not very good at.
3. It’s OK Not to Know What I’m Doing.
My first half marathon and marathon were shit shows. (That’s the technical term for a hot mess.) Runkeeper helped me train but other than that, I had no experience and I didn’t know what I was doing. I often ignored my training plans, ran in shoes that were too small, and I didn’t know how to fuel. It was really hard and terrifying but I still gave it my all. Running helped me realize that I don’t have to have things figured out. I just have to show up and give it 100%. (And 100% doesn’t mean perfection; it means you’re giving it everything you have.)
4. Food Isn’t the Enemy.
Crossing the finish line of my very first marathon changed the way I saw myself. That was the last time I yearned to be thinner or wished I had a thigh gap. It was physically impossible to cross that finish line and not believe I was strong. I’ve earned my body. I work for my body. I run my body and I couldn’t be happier with the strong body running has given me. Now I don't stress about what I eat! I don't feel guilty if I have a cupcake or a piece of bread. It's helped me realize that food isn't the enemy, the way I thought of myself was.
5. Strength Is Empowering.
Feeling strong is the greatest feeling in the world. My strength has made me a more confident and easy going woman because I know that strength doesn’t manifest overnight. You have to work for strength. You have to endure and you have to apply yourself to acquire strength.
6. It’s So Much Easier To Ask For Help.
I always thought that asking for help meant admitting defeat which couldn’t be further from the truth. Asking for help takes courage, an open mind and a desire to succeed. I’ve now surrounded myself with people who are constantly asking for help and opinions that differ from their own. They do it because they're driven and they value the different opinions around them.
7. Embrace Fear.
For me, fear means you care. It means you’re invested. Fear means that you’re applying yourself and testing your limits and that is something that should be celebrated! Running a marathon was the second scariest thing I ever did because I didn’t think I could do it. I stood at the starting line convinced I wasn’t going to cross the finish line. I could have easily said, “This is impossible. I need more time, I’m not ready.” But I didn’t, I went for it and I surprised myself.
8. Failure Is An Option. You Can Always Try Again.
Failure isn’t an end all be all. No doesn’t always mean no, it just means not right now! Goals are wonderful because they give us something specific to work towards (and did you know that you're twice as likely to accomplish something if you set a goal?) but sometimes it doesn’t happen! Does that mean give up? No, it means you take what you’ve learned and you try again. Failure isn’t something to be ashamed of. I’ve made some pretty huge and embarrassing mistakes since moving to New York. It’s hard not to want to want to lock yourself in a room and never come out when they happen, but it’s easier to take responsibility, learn from it, laugh it off and keep going.
9. Limits Are Self-Imposed.
I needed to prove what I’m capable of to myself. After I graduated from college, I put myself in a box and I started listening to my doubts and insecurities instead of trying to see what I’m capable of. Running has helped me realize that all the things I tell myself I'm not capable of, all the things I think are impossible are self-imposed limits. You'll never truly know what you're capable of unless you try, try, and try again.
10. There Isn’t Much That Can't Be Solved By An Exhausting Run.
If I’m overwhelmed or when shit hits the fan, I go for a run. There’s something about deliberately moving forward that helps me remember that everything is going to be OK. I do some of my best brain storming during a run. For some reason, when I run everything just makes sense. (That or I'm just in so much pain that I can't focus on anything besides getting home.)
Has running taught you anything about yourself that you didn't anticipate? Until next time, #RunSelfieRepeat.