Lots of running makes you a better runner. That (hopefully) is obvious. But lots of running will teach you lots of other stuff, including life lessons that will make you a better person in all areas of your life.
Life Lessons I’ve Learned From Running
I may have learned this stuff while running, but I use it every day.
Prepare, Plan, And Then Be Ready To Wing It
I’m a planner, so of course my running reflects that. I follow a training plan to get race-ready. I have both training and race goals, complete with action plans on how to accomplish those goals. My race plan lets me know what’s what in the days leading up to a race.
But I’ve also learned that sometimes, no matter how well I plan, something will happen in training or on race day that will make me throw all of those plans out the window.
Maybe unseasonably hot weather will make my race goals unrealistic. Maybe its one of those days were I’m just not feeling it and I know the route I planned on running won’t be the best option for the day.
No matter how well you plan, you always need to be ready to adjust to the conditions as they actually present themselves.
Prepare and plan, but also be prepared to throw it all out the window if need be and adjust on the fly.
Comparison Is Worthless
It is super easy to compare your running or race results to someone else and draw conclusions. To think, ‘I finished my 5k in 30 minutes, you finished yours in 25 minutes, therefore you are a ‘better’ runner than me.’
But that is a silly and incomplete way of looking at yourself.
Maybe one of our 5ks was hilly, the other flat. Maybe I’m focusing on training for a longer endurance event while you are training exclusively for the 5k.
One isn’t better or worse than the other, they are just different.
Everyone has individual strengths and weaknesses and a unique skill set.
Comparison is irrelevant.
Don’t Get Used To It
Is your run going terribly?
Is it going amazingly well?
In either case, don’t get too used to it.
There is always going to be an ebb and flow to running. Your enthusiasm for running will have its ups and its downs. Your energy and state of mind can fluctuate greatly over the course of a single run.
“If you start to feel good during an ultra, don’t worry, you will get over it.”
– Gene Thibeault
Power through the down times, because it will get better.
Don’t get too complacent in the good times, because they won’t last forever either.
Never get too comfortable.
Enjoy The View
Sure, the run (or the race) is important, but there are some amazing views that can only be seen via your own two feet and you can only enjoy the view if you occasionally stop and look around.
But don’t be so limited that you only look at what’s in front of you, that is only part of the story.
Look around and occasionally look behind you.
Change your view, change your perspective. You never know what you might see.
Keep Moving Forward
Sure you’ll get tired. Sure you’ll sometimes want to stop.
But keep walking when need to catch your breath.
Keep moving forward, however slowly you need to.
The Best Route Isn’t Always The Direct Route
The direct route, the ‘as the crow flies’ route, may be the shortest route, but that doesn’t make it the best route.
Maybe the most direct route is rocky, or overgrown with poison oak. Maybe the direct route is dull and includes nothing but drab concrete.
Switchbacks, detours, and side roads might add distance, and they might make your run take a little longer, but they also can make the route much more enjoyable or scenic.
Focus On Your Top Priority
During a run, there are dozens (if not hundreds) of metrics you can measure. You can (maybe) pay attention to them all, but you can’t improve them all at the same time.
You only have so much time, energy, and focus.
Improving one area during a run may create a conflict with your ability to improve in another.
You likely can’t focus on increasing your pace, increasing your leg turnover, improving your fueling, and focus on improving your mindset at the exact same time on the same run.
Pick your top priority and focus on that.
And whatever you do, don’t try and focus on two priorities that conflict with each other.
Set A Goal Then Forget It
This may seem like an odd lesson from someone who is a goal setter, but here’s what I mean.
When training for a race, you can set a race goal. Finish in X time, for example. That is the outcome you want to accomplish. Then you break that goal down into an action plan – to finish a marathon in X hours, that means doing long runs at X or Y pace.
You break the ultimate goal down into the steps you have to take to get there.
Once you’ve done that, focus on the plan. Focus on the steps you are taking today that will lead you where you want to go.
Set a goal, create an action plan, then ignore the goal and focus on the process.
It’s Only Running
You are more than a runner.
It is what you do, not who you are.
If you had a bad run or a bad race, that doesn’t make you a bad person. You are a great person who had a bad run.
Love running, focus on your training, but keep it all perspective. Don’t take it all too seriously.
What about you? What life lessons has running taught you?
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