Run, Ria, Run

My love affair with running started many years ago. An ex-boyfriend of mine was a runner, and I remember thinking “I can do that” so I put on my first pair of running shoes and went for my first “run.” In hindsight, it was more a leisurely jog as I was slow as molasses and really out of shape. But I persisted, and slowly but surely, I became an actual runner. I competed in 5Ks, 10Ks, and half-marathons for several years before stopping race training about four years ago. I didn’t stop running altogether but it definitely fell behind in my list of preferred activities, and I was no longer doing it consistently as I had been as life seemed to only get busier. It took years to get back into running consistently but I am back on that grind.

Falling back in love with running over the course of this year has set me on a mission to train for my first marathon. As scary and daunting a task it may seem to run 26.2 miles, training for this marathon and all this running has reminded me of and taught me some new foundational life lessons. These are five lessons I have learned from marathon training thus far:

1. The mind-body connection are interdependent and a source of strength that also needs to be trained to be in sync. Running is a test of mental endurance just as much as physical endurance. When you are on a long run and your legs are wanting to stop, your mind is what tells you to keep going. And the same can be said vice versa; the mornings when you want to sleep in because your mind tries to justify it but your body tells you that it craves movement and is restless. Training for this marathon has reminded me of the symbiotic relationship between mind and body; the more I run, the more in sync they become. The mind gets clearer; the body gets stronger; and the more they work together to make running and that physical action fill me with peace. Running is no longer a task but almost a meditative practice.

2. Self-motivation doesn’t have sh*t on self-discipline when it comes to achieving your goals. We all have things we want to achieve but how many goals or New Year’s resolutions have fallen through the cracks after a couple of weeks or never even come to fruition? That is because goal-setting is an act of motivation. However, in order to be successful at anything, the actions to achieving our goals have to become habit which requires self-discipline. Motivation often wanes or is temporary but self-discipline forces action into habit. There are plenty of mornings when I don’t want to get out of bed where motivation is low but self-discipline pulls me out of bed into my running gear and on the pavement. The more I repeat this action, the more it becomes habit, and the closer I am to being able to physically endure 26.2 miles.

3. Achieving your goals requires sacrifice but it is up to you to determine whether or not you feel it is a sacrifice or a stepping stone. I am a morning runner and gym attender; I am the most productive I will be physically at the butt crack of dawn. And because I have to work out early or get that run in before the sun is fully up over Phoenix and it is a million degrees outside, I am usually in bed pretty early. And this isn’t just during the work week, this is also on the weekends because those are the days I have enough time to complete my long runs. This means I really don’t stay out past 8:30 pm. I am not at the bars drinking and hanging out with friends, and I turn down a lot of invitations. But to me, none of it feels like a sacrifice because I really want to complete this marathon and moving my body ultimately feels better and more fulfilling to me than feeling the hangover from a night of drinking. Sure, going out from time to time is fun and I do definitely make time for my friends but I recognize that in order to achieve greatness that I need to evaluate my priorities and act accordingly.

4. Embrace the fact that there will be struggles, learn from them, and keep moving. I hit a mental wall with marathon training in week five. Motivation was low and discipline was damned, and I just felt off that entire week that my runs really suffered and my weight training days were non-existent. I felt defeated after my second run and decided to call it a week to get my head in order. For me, that means I head to a spin class with my favorite instructor, Emma, for a mental and emotional recharge; I don’t know if it is the music, the lights, or the fact that Emma yells motivational reminders and lessons while I am trying not to die on the bike but it works like a charm every time. Week five was no exception; Emma reminded me that week that there is strength in the struggle and that our response to the struggle, whether we give up or keep moving, is the choice to grow or remain stagnant. The woman truly is Yoda but prettier but that message sank in and gave me the energy to transform that struggle into a successful week six. Struggle will always exist no matter what you are trying to achieve because greatness is rarely achieved without it but you can choose to learn and level up or quit; choice is yours.

5. When it comes down to it, it all comes down to you and your choices. What I love about running is that it is a solo endeavor. You don’t have someone else on your team to go in for you when you are tired; you are the entire team. You can have support from a running community or you can have your friends cheering you on but at the end of the day, the only person that can get you on the pavement is you; the only person who can put one foot in front of the other is you; the only person who can tell your mind to shut up when you want to stop and keep going is you. Running is the perfect sport for personal accountability and personal choice; heck, running is the perfect analogy for going through life.

While I know that not everyone is not a runner, I hope everyone finds something that teaches them as much about themselves as running has taught me. While I have a long way to go till 26.2 miles and am sure there are a lot more lessons to learn from the training process, I am glad to be running again. May I never stop again.

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