I haven’t had the best luck with marathons! The three I’ve trained for have been postponed or cancelled a few weeks from Race Day. When my last one was cancelled, I made the hasty decision to run the distance as planned. But a few days later, I changed my mind – it’s simple, I still wanted the full package – the support from the crowds, the camaraderie of strangers and friends chasing the same goal, and of course, the medal. So even as my head was bravely saying “Yes” my heart was shouting a resounding “No”. And you can’t run 42.2km without your heart.
But today I want to discuss some key life lessons from the 30km runs I did this training cycle. This was the furthest I’d ever run in my life and it makes me immensely proud to have done it three times – even with a bruised ego and some swear words dotted along the way.
Five Key Life Lessons From Endurance Running
Respect The Distance. I remember the first time I ran 30km. I got to 15km and thought, “I’ve got this!” Fast forward a few more kilometres and I was struggling, cursing the day I became a runner. The second time I ran it, I slowed things down. Although I spent longer on the road, I finished stronger. The third time I unknowingly chose a hilly route. Needless to say, it was very tough but I finished. Sometimes when you’re struggling in life – not at the place you want to be or feeling that you haven’t accomplished A, B or C, you need to remember that the journey is long. Success won’t happen overnight, you need to have patience and appreciate that no matter how well prepared you are, life goals, just like 30km runs, need time on the road.
Break The Journey Into Chunks. Okay, don’t laugh – but 30km for me is ten 3km runs, six 5km runs, five 6km runs, four 7.5km runs, three 10km runs and two 15km runs. 30km sounds so daunting but as soon as I break it up it feels manageable. Each milestone gives me a sense of achievement. This neat trick applies to life as well. When you’re overwhelmed with a project, break it up into milestones and remember to celebrate each small win.
Don’t Give Up. There’s always a point in my long runs where I question why I’m doing this – what the whole point is? For my third 30km run, this came at the 18km mark. I wanted to cry. By the time I got to 22km, I could feel my skin burning under the intense sun and although my legs felt okay, my mind was near collapse. The excuses started: You’ve done 22 already, surely that’s enough? Besides it’s too hot. Digging deep, I remembered Dean Karnazes’ famous words, “Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up.” I started walking. Soon I felt strong to run again. Walk, run, walk, run, until the finish. Again, this translates to so many situations in life. Slow down when you have to, take a break, and then get it done.
You Are Stronger Than You Think. Before I ran my first 30km, I doubted myself so much. Have I done enough? I struggle with 25, so is 30 even possible? But I did it. That 30km run made me appreciate how strong my body and mind are. I was more confident for the next 30km run. I knew I had done it before and could do it again. Let’s get back to life – how many times do you doubt yourself? Or tell yourself something is “impossible”? How many times do you start your sentences with “I can’t because…” You are so much stronger than you realise – so don’t limit yourself or tell yourself you can’t do something before you’ve even tried.
Your Mind Needs Training Too! In my first 30km run, I relied on Ditiro to keep me going. When I was tired, he was there to tell me to stay strong. But people won’t always be there to tell you that. It’s important to build your mental game. Like a muscle, it needs to be exercised. That’s why it was important for me to run my second 30km alone. And when I started struggling on my third one, I was able to draw on that will power. Back to life, it’s so important to keep putting yourself in uncomfortable situations – all this is practice for when you’re faced with a tough challenge. And that’s not to say it won’t be messy, but you’ll get through it.
Running is such a metaphor for life. In this post, the author comments that “The best–and worst–thing about running is that you will never master it. You will never be perfect at it.” Just like life. Running comes with good and bad runs, great achievements and crushing disappointments. Life has the most incredible moments but not without its challenges – but these experiences help to shape and mould us. Just as we celebrate our happy moments, we have to embrace those times that test us. Fall – learn – grow – keep moving forward.
What other parallels can you draw between life and running? Do you break your runs into chunks? What’s your favourite mantra on the road?