"Running allows me to set my mind free. Nothing seems impossible. Nothing unattainable." — Kara Goucher
From mid-high school until I finished college I was a dedicated runner. Just within a few months after starting my running career I began to see that running is a metaphor for life. My confidence and strength didn’t only improve my time on the track, but also the way I presented myself to the world and the way I thought of myself whenever I was alone. It pushed me to work hard and become disciplined in order to achieve certain goals. Even to this day, the foundational lessons that I learned from being a runner still hold a profound effect on my life today.
Adaptability to Pain and Discomfort
As a runner, you learn how to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. This is true regardless of where you are in your running career. As a beginner, you learn how to dampen the pain and soreness in order to go for another run. As an advanced runner, you learn how to push yourself harder to go the extra mile just a little bit quicker. Pain isn’t necessarily ignored but embraced.
Runners understand that building a higher tolerance for any kind of adversity becomes a necessary superpower in order to improve and grow. That’s because not every run will be easy. Not all paths will be straight. The perfect race will never exist. Therefore, a mental callus needs to be placed in order to face anything that may come one’s way.
If you’re starting your running career from ground zero, the most important thing to remember is that there will always be room for improvement. In other words, we are never “the worst” or “the best” at something. There is only “getting better.” And this is true no matter how talented someone is. The greatest athletes didn’t only have the “right genes” or “the perfect height,” but also the heart and mental fortitude to improve every day. They accept challenges as opportunities, grow scar tissue with every adversity, and become better than who they were yesterday.
The greatest thing about having a growth mindset? Anyone and everybody, no matter who they are or where they are in life have the chance to be amazing in something. It’s just a matter of full effort, extreme focus, persistent time, and lots of practice.
A Life Motto
What you learn and gain from running begins to bleed into all the other domains of your life. The adaptability to discomfort, the growth mindset, and the learning of extraordinary skills start to become your life motto. You’ll see that challenges start to feel more like fun than a dread. Your confidence levels will make you feel strong and competent.
That “extra mile” you did at the track will become the “the extra kiss” you gave your partner that morning before heading out to work. That “last push” on a 10-mile run will become your “last push” on the late-night Friday project you need to finish. The “I don’t want to but have to” attitude will allow you to have the discipline, dedication, and fortitude to accomplish more than what you would have thought possible for yourself.
Dedicated runners don’t have excuses for missing a run. Rather they go out for their run or they go for a run. It’s final and that simple. That’s because they have a goal in mind. Something that they want to attain in which no obstacle can stop their ability to reach what they’ve set out for. That’s real discipline. This may seem nonsensical because life tends to hit at the most unexpected times. In serious cases, those would be real reasons. But thoughts and excuses like “I don’t have enough time” or “I already did a lot yesterday” never stop a truly disciplined person.
In being disciplined, the skill of being flexible comes into play as well. For me personally, being a caretaker for my father has made me shift my priorities to place more focus on my parents’ needs and well-being. Yet, I still have my health as a high priority for myself as well. Even though I’ve stopped being a long-distance endurance runner, I now take the early morning to do resistance training while my parents sleep. My discipline fuels me to keep this up every day no matter how busy my day will be or how tired I feel. But that discipline for me was carved out of always pushing myself to run even if it were cold, raining, dry, or humid outside. I learned that we’re our only limitations.
Running is all about patience. Patience from getting to point A to point B. Patience in progressing from beginner to advanced. Patience in increasing your strength, agility, endurance, and speed.
You build a foundation that grows…but that growth takes time. In running, your patience is tested and tested again because nothing falls from the sky. It’s a practice that requires consistent patience and diligence to finally get where you want to be. This is in parallel with individuals who want to improve themselves as individual people. Who desire to better their productivity, their relationships, their mood, etc. The great thing about running is that you actually get to see your hard work physically progress and manifest. Once you have this external experience that time and effort are worth your energy, you’ll easily be able to translate it over to other aspects of life. You’ll have the mental fortitude to carry yourself past the small bumps on the road.
Every runner’s experience is different and unique. Each one facing their own set of challenges and struggles. However, the lessons learned and internalized are often the same:
- Adapt to Pain and Discomfort
- Have a Growth Mindset
- Live in Line with your Life Motto
- Carry Discipline
- Practice Patience