I think one of the most fun parts about being a runner is getting to complain about running. Even though we secretly love it, what we not-so-secretly love even more is grousing about the weather, or our shin splints, or the mud puddles on our trail path. We complain like it's a badge of honor, and I suppose it is one well-earned. But underneath all of our moaning and groaning is a genuine love for kicking our own butts and a fellowship with other runners that can't be beat.
Whether you're a brand-new runner, training for your first 5k, or a seasoned athlete pumping up for your next running challenge, we are united by our mutual masochism and the beauty of all the unexpected and worthwhile realizations that we have come to while slapping our beat-up sneakers against the open road. Because the truth is that running isn't just a sport — it's a lifestyle. I know that people always say that about whatever it is they happen to be into, and I agree that it's kind of annoying. But with running, it's undeniably true. Once it worms its way into your life, it changes your perspective on just about everything. Running has changed my life in a thousand ways, most of which I'm probably not even aware of. But there are a few life lessons from running that are unquestionable.
You Are Capable Of More Than You Think
Nobody is born a runner. I may be able to crank out ten miles fairly thoughtlessly now, but the first time I ever tried to run, I was a disaster zone. The only reason I even finished the timed mile in middle school was that I was pretending Voldemort was chasing me (and I guess in this scenario, he also had really bad aim), and even then, I couldn't finish two laps without stopping to walk.
The point is that everybody starts somewhere, and the place that they start is usually terrible. Any person who is a runner now endured several months of grueling, testing, and sometimes quite embarrassing training to get themselves to where they are today. But the crazy thing is that once you do that, you forever know that other hurdles in life aren't impossible, either. That's an insanely powerful thing to know.
Music. Is. Everything.
You appreciate a good song more than anybody, because sometimes it is all you have to keep you going. This is why race planners are so strategic about playing music at certain points of a run. I had no idea if I was going to finish my first half-marathon, and then at mile seven "Let it Go" came on and everything in my body just lit on fire and I suddenly knew I had it in me. (Yes, this was the Disney Princess Half, and EVERYONE NEEDS TO DO IT AT LEAST ONCE.) Because of running, you have an appreciation for the power of music that runs deeper than your several unfortunately ingrown toenails (yay, running!)
You Don't Need The Gym
I think a lot of people fixate on how impossible it is to stay healthy and in shape because the gym is so expensive. Enter running: the world's cheapest exercise. You can do it any time and anywhere, and it will work every muscle in your body to the ground. Running teaches you how to be self-reliant — how to motivate yourself to kick yourself in the butt instead of relying on other people to help do it for you.
The World Is So Much Bigger Than You Thought
I know I'm not the only runner who does this. Any time I go to a new city or visit a new place, I run. And by mindlessly exploring, I stumble upon places I might never have seen otherwise. And honestly, it's those memories that last the longest after I leave a place — turning the corner in Paris to see a giant cathedral, finding the ocean and sprinting into it, or getting that first glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge after a long trek. Running makes you bolder. It makes you push out of your comfort zone and see the world in an entirely different light.
Laundry Is A Priority
Everybody learns this lesson at some point, but runners learn it faster. When we run, we run, and there's nothing dainty about it. I can guarantee you that even if I'm only going out for a mile, I will come back drenched in sweat. Hygiene is a runner's only defense, which is probably why we're the nicest-smelling people on earth.
You Have To Love Your Body — And How Can You Not?
Everyone has things about their body they aren't a hundred percent satisfied with. But look at what your body can do. Look at these legs that ran up a mountain! Look at these arms that pumped all the way through a trail! Look at these blister-ridden feet that carried you further than you ever thought they could! You are a powerhouse, and that is something runners remember in times of self-image weakness.
You've Always Got Something Left To Give
You are at the end of a race, and your muscles feel like they are sliding off your bones — if you even have bones anymore. But then you round a corner and see the finish line, and something in you snaps. You can do this. And something you didn't even know was there wells up inside you, and suddenly you're not just running but sprinting, when you thought you were done for good only seconds before.
Life is the same way. When it hits you the hardest, sometimes it feels like it is impossible to get back up again. You just have to access the part of yourself that you forgot was there and keep pushing on.
I can't tell you how many EUREKA! moments I've had while running. Running is an awfully (and wonderfully) lonely sport, and as such, it gives you plenty of time to think about everything. If you're struggling with a life-changing decision or trying to understand something in yourself, running gives you the kind of clarity that you don't have when you're being distracted by a thousand and one things in the real world.
But Most Importantly ... Enjoy The View
My mom always told me that everyone should have a mantra when they run. I Eat Hills or I Can Do This or I'm Going To Inhale An Entire Pizza When I Get Home are a few good examples. But the one she always recommended was "Enjoy the view." On or off the running trail, we can all take a moment to appreciate how lucky we are to be here. Running is one more moment to remind ourselves not to take it for granted.