One of my favorite parts about technology is the fact that it makes our memories so easily accessible. I love to start the day or month scrolling through my picture memories and social media events that took place one year ago, two years ago, even ten years ago! This tradition has reminded me of some of the greatest accomplishments, joys, highs and lows in my life. Just a few days ago I was reminded of one such event: my very first race!
On April 22nd, 2012, I ran my first ever race. After a little over a year of dabbling in running, and many years dreaming that I could actually be a runner, I finally committed and set out to accomplish a goal. My very first race was a half marathon – not of my own choosing, but one chosen for me by family members. My aunt and uncle had decided that they wanted to lose weight while checking off a bucket list item, and I decided to go along for the ride.
I spent 3 months training for my first half marathon alongside my mom – running most long runs together on weekends, sharing the highs and commiserating together during the lows of training. Prior to signing up for this half marathon, I spent years watching my parents routinely head out for their run around the neighborhood. Without fail, they both ran consistently, rain or shine, for as long as I can remember. Seeing their example inspired me to prioritize my health and find a form of exercise that I enjoy.
For years I watched them log many miles, always wishing I could join, but struggling to finish a mile. Each time my motivation reoccurred, I laced up my shoes and ran around our one mile block. More often than not, I returned home feeling exhausted, out of breath and discouraged. Little did I know that running was teaching me an important life lesson.
Finally my determination got the best of me, and I pushed through the feelings of exhaustion to continue on past a mile. Suddenly, I was completing 3 mile runs, then 5 and 6 milers. Slowly but surely, I realized that running did in fact get easier.
Despite my previous belief, I actually could be a runner.
The start of college brought a sense of newfound freedom. Suddenly, I had easy access to a fully stocked gym right outside my door. I could exercise wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I could lift weights, spend time on the elliptical, or swim laps in the pool. The excitement I experienced when I first started college led to quite a few months of obsessive exercise. I was addicted to the endorphin rush, and constantly wanted to improve.
Before signing up for my first half marathon, I would run 7 miles obsessively each day. No matter what day of the week it was, every morning at 6:00 am I went to the gym to run 63 laps around their track (9 laps was a mile). I have absolutely no idea how I had the mental willpower to stick it out for 63 tedious laps, but once the habit was formed, there was no breaking it.
Signing up for a half marathon really saved my running. Had I not registered for a race, I probably would have found myself burnt out just a few months later. Running longer miles forced me to run outside, and I discovered the joy of nature combined with endorphins. Following a training plan forced me to take rest days, mix in cross training, and vary the distance of each run.
Related: 15 Amazing Reasons to Run
My first race was the beginning of a journey I could never have predicted in my wildest dreams. Running is truly one of the most important things in my life. It teaches me so many life lessons, helps push me to achieve new goals, and keeps me feeling motivated and purposeful even throughout those rough patches.
Running has changed my life.
And it all started with $80 for a half marathon registration. Since my first race, I completed six 5ks, two 10ks, two 15ks, 16 half marathons and 5 marathons. (Check out all the races here!). Running has taught me more than I could ever ask for, and there is still so much I have to learn. In honor of the 6 year anniversary of my very first race, today I am sharing some life lessons that running has taught me. I’ve compiled all the lessons I learned into one big long list. There are so many reasons to love running, but learning these life lessons has been one of my favorites.
Life Lessons from 6 Years of Running
Prioritize – you can’t do it all.
Attempting to do everything will only lead to disappointment. Pick a few things which you’re really passionate about and focus your energy on them. Prioritizing helps you conserve your energy for the things that are most important, while avoiding wasting energy on useless things.
Nothing good comes from comparing yourself to others.
Everyone is different – if we were all the same, life would be incredibly boring. Comparing yourself to someone else puts you in an unfair situation. You have not lived the same lives, so just because you haven’t accomplished something that they did doesn’t mean you are any less spectacular. Comparison only leads us to negativity. Celebrate your own accomplishments no matter how big or small they may seem around others.
Don’t be afraid to try new things.
You never know what exciting opportunity might be out there waiting for you unless you try. You never know how fast you could become or how far you could run unless you give it a shot. If you fail, at least you know. And if you succeed, a whole new world has been opened for you.
Gratitude is one of our greatest tools. Whether you’re just beginning or have already accomplished your wildest dreams, don’t forget to be grateful. Everyone has something in their life that’s worth celebrating. Celebrate the major accomplishments, and don’t forget to appreciate the little things along the way.
There is always room for improvement.
No matter how successful you have become, there will always be room for improvement. Those moments of cockiness are always the moments that wind up uncovering your flaws. Enjoy the victories while you have them, and use the energy to propel you to continually improve.
Don’t assume that this is the best you can achieve – continue to push yourself to achieve more. Something great is always lurking around the corner when progress seems slow. Continue to challenge yourself and know that through hard work you can achieve the unimaginable.
Nothing worth having comes easy.
We don’t truly appreciate the things that come easy to us. More often than not, when we set our sights on something really great, getting there is going to bring some challenges. Those challenges are what help us learn and develop our skills. Strength is developed through adversity.
Comfort is the enemy of progress.
Similarly, if you are comfortable – whether it’s in life, with your job or running – you probably aren’t progressing very much. If you want to get faster, you can’t be afraid of a little pain during your interval workouts. If you want to get promoted, you have to be willing to do things that might scare you. Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone is one of the best ways to discover what you’re really made of.
(^^ Riding the struggle bus at the NYC Marathon while the man behind me had his best day ever, haha;)
You will not find success unless you prepare for it.
Preparation, preparation, preparation. Sure, you can achieve a few things by winging it. But that method will never lead you to greatness. You get out of something what you put into it, and if you want anything other than mediocrity you have to work for it.
You are not an expert just because you’ve done something before.
Guilty! A challenge is a challenge no matter how many times you’ve completed it. You may enter a race the second time with wisdom gained from the first, but there is always something new to be learned. Expect the unexpected and don’t settle for foolishness.
It is impossible to plan for everything.
No matter how meticulously you plan, something unexpected is going to happen. Prepare as much as possible, but understand that adjustments will need to be made. Be willing to change without letting it bring you down.
You can accomplish anything by breaking it into smaller, manageable goals.
Your wildest dreams can come true if you set up a game plan to achieve them. You can only achieve those impossible goals by starting exactly where you are today. Work away at it each day, understand that failures are inevitable, and never give up.
Nothing is impossible.
Imagine what it would feel like to accomplish your wildest dreams. Those people you admire, look up to, and strive to be all started where you are. It takes hard work but if the goal is that sweet, it will be worth it. Don’t be afraid to dream.
Never judge others.
You have no idea what that person with the weird looking hair has been through. We have no clue why that woman is overweight, or what that tattoo could possibly mean. Meet those around you with an open eye, for it’s often the most unlikely people that have the biggest hearts.
Like minded strangers can be your biggest support system.
Those strangers standing next to you at the start line might end up being the reason that you finish. Don’t ever underestimate the power of the human spirit. Working together will get you farther than you ever could have dreamed alone.
Prove something to yourself, not others.
Set a goal and accomplish it for yourself. Don’t run to show off for that new boyfriend, or to post on social media. If it doesn’t mean anything to you, you won’t get anything out of it. Find a reason, your own motivation, and push yourself each day because of it.
There are really amazing people in this world.
In a world so filled with negativity lately – terror on the news, violence, anger in the check out line – it’s easy to become overwhelmed and depressed. Sad stories and natural disasters seem to be everywhere we look. When we feel overwhelmed, it’s easy to close our minds to the simple acts of goodness happening all around us. Some of the most normal looking people are doing the greatest things, and you have no idea. Find kindness wherever you go, and if you can’t find it – create it.
You didn’t get where you are today without the help of others.
Don’t ever forget about the ones who helped you get there. Your support system was there for you when you were struggling, so don’t exclude them when you are celebrating. Thank those who have sacrificed for you, and be willing to pay them back when it’s their turn.
Running teaches us so much about life. The lessons for runners out there seem to be endless, and I am so grateful for everything there is to learn. There are so many reasons to love running. Whether you are just starting out or have been a lifelong runner, taking a moment to appreciate the growth you have experienced throughout your running journey is truly eye opening. Never underestimate the power of the human spirit – we are capable of so much more than we will ever know.