13.1 Things Running Taught Me

In recent years, running has been one of the greatest teachers I've had.  Not only have I learned a lot about myself from a physical standpoint, but running has also helped me grow mentally and emotionally through some of the most challenging (and rewarding) years of my life.  Here's the list of the top 13.1 lessons learned from running.

1. Every mile is a victory

When I started training for my first long distance race, I’d never run more than 4 miles.  As I progressed in my training plan and added 1 mile per week to my long run, I found myself running further than I ever had before.  Each week, I was in shock and awe.  “Holy shit – I just ran 5 miles!”  “Holy shit – I just ran 6 miles!”  “Holy shit – I just ran 7 miles!”  You get the picture.

2. I’m my own worst critic

I have a bad habit of calling myself a “slow runner”.  Negative self-talk is a killer.  How could I possibly ever be a “fast runner” if I’m calling myself slow?

3. I only need to compete with myself

It’s unlikely I’ll ever win a race.  I’m competing with myself at every start and every finish.  That’s it.

4. When to Back Off

After running my first 10-miler and 2 half-marathons in the span of 6 months, my running game was spent.  Now, I realize that there are lots of people who can go from race to race to race without burning out, but clearly not me.  I was DONE.  I couldn’t get excited about running.  I took a race hiatus for almost a year and only ran when I wanted to. 

5. Injuries Are Real

Don’t be a tough guy or gal and try to power through an injury.  Injuries are real and can be quite serious and continuing to run with them can result in something much more serious.  Give your body the time it needs to heal.

6. What to Eat

When I first started running, even before I was logging aggressive mileage, I noticed subtle changes in my body’s response to food.  Keeping a food journal along with your running log can help you tune in to what’s the best for your body.

7. You Don’t Have to Be Fast

It’s never about how fast you’re going.  It’s about crossing the finish line.

8. Good Shoes are Key

One of the best investments I ever made in my running was to invest in a good pair of shoes.  Go to your local running shop and get personally fitted for a pair of kicks by an expert.  They’ll assess your gait and your needs and send you home with the PERFECT pair of shoes.

9. The Running Community is Awesome

I consider myself a solo runner, but even I have to admit that the support that the running community provides is awesome.  Case and point – after the Boston Marathon bombing earlier this year, thousands of runners descended on Philadelphia’s City Hall for a memorial run.  Although thrown together at the last minute, the City agreed to shut down Market Street (a main thoroughfare) for almost 10 blocks and provide police detail, all in support of Boston and of runners.  It was a pretty awesome thing to see and be a part of.

10. I Can Do Anything

If you had asked me 5 years ago if I’d run a half marathon, I would have laughed in your face.  Me?  No way!  But once I got it in my head that I was going to run one, I got serious about training and made it happen.  All it takes is hardwork and dedication to accomplish anything.

11. No one is judging you; Everyone is cheering you on

I actually heard a friend say this to a new runner who was concerned that other runners were judging her for running slow.  When I see someone running, I never say “Wow, they are dogging it.”  I say “Get it!”  Don’t you?

12. Every PR is a PR

About a month ago, I ran a half marathon and I was sure that I was going to PR it big time.  I hadn’t trained much, but all my cross-training had really upped my running game.  I was pumped.  About a week before the race, I pulled my quad.  I iced and nurtured it all week.  I was on the fence about running, but ultimately decided to go for it.  For the first 7 miles, my quad felt ok and my split was on-point.  The second half of the course was a little hillier than the first half and my quad started to feel tight.  I backed off and ended up walking the hills, including a big one right at the finish.  I PR’d the race, but only by about 6 seconds.  I was disappointed.  It took a couple weeks for it to sink in that I’d performed well under less-than-optimal circumstances.  And that PR is still mine for the taking... I’m going after it later this year.

13. I’m a Runner

My finish times, the number of medals I have,  the number of half’s under my belt – they don’t really mean all that much.  I’m not a runner because I have these things.  I’m a runner because I love running – it feeds my soul, helps me clear my mind, and just feels right.

13.1 You’ll never finish if you never start

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Are you a runner?  What has running taught you?  Leave your thoughts in the comments.