Last month was my 2-year runniversary of being a runner reborn, and ever since my family relocated back to Alabama at the beginning of the summer, my running has changed. I have struggled through injury, weight gain, a hotter climate, more hills and an overall lack of long-run endurance and speed-endurance. This has all made me a little reflective, as I tend to really analyze things, especially during struggles or times of change. This has helped me come up with a list of things that I have learned from running these last couple years.
- It takes patience just to build up to running your very 1st mile when you are obese.
- It takes patience to finish your first 5K without walking.
- It really takes patience to accomplish your 1st 20-miler and to cross the finish line of your 1st marathon.
- Be patient, but know that the hard work, the sweat and the pain are all worth it in the end!
2. Everything Has a Season
- I have really learned this lately as I have had to take a step back both in terms of speed and distance as I adjust to living and running in a new place.
- Even professional athletes are not expected to play their sport at full intensity year round. They have seasons where they are expected to perform at the highest level, and they have off-seasons where they let their bodies recover and work on building up new strengths and skills.
- Running is the same way, and after running my 1st 2 marathons this past year, plus a ton of races at shorter distances, my body has told me it is time for an offseason to adjust and recover. There will be another season where I can focus on racing and accomplishing goals and dreams (qualifying for Boston 1 day), but that season is not right now.
3. Listen To Your Body
- I have had to listen to my body lately to know that I am not in a place right now to train for another marathon.
- Every-time I have any kind of running injury, I have to listen to my body and know when to take extra rest days, when to see a doctor, or when to cross-train more and run less.
- Every runner knows that you have days where nothing goes right. Your muscles are stiff or achy, your breathing is off or your body is just fatigued. You have to listen to your body and adjust your workout accordingly by cutting miles or decreasing pace.
- On the flip-side, when you are in top-notch shape and running really well, sometimes your body tells you, “You are ready. It is time to let it fly!” Some of my best, fastest and most-enjoyable runs have been the times where I went out to run X number of miles with no intention of running incredibly fast, but after a mile I feel great and just know that it is a day to see what I can do.
4. Push Your Limits
- What great things are ever accomplished by holding yourself back?
- When it comes to running we all have limits (often only perceived limits), but those limits can and do change over time. If you are just starting a couch-to-5K program and haven’t run in years (if ever), running a marathon seems far beyond your limits. Unless you are a super-athlete, then yes it is far beyond your limits at this point, but it is not beyond your limits if you push yourself hard and train properly.
- You will never know what your true limits are unless you push yourself past what your perceived limits.
- When you truly reach your limits, you will know! When you are 22-miles into a marathon and every muscle in your legs are spasming, putting you on the ground in pain, those muscles have reached their limits… or have they? Even when my legs are screaming to stop running in this situation, I have somehow been able to just keep pushing forward till I finished the 26.2.
5. Injuries Are Opportunities For Improvement
- When I had shin-splints for weeks during the early days of running, it forced me to improve my stretching.
- When I had to stop running for a month because of runner’s knee, I bought my stationary bike and improved my cross-training. Biking has been an important part of my workout routine ever since.
- When I had problems with my hip and IT band, I learned how to foam roll and improved the way I take care of my muscles.
- When I couldn’t walk without intense pain just 3 days before the 2015 Carmel Marathon because of my left achilles tendon injury, I improved my prayer life!
6. Find Joy Where You Are
- It is great to find joy in where you have been and what you have accomplished.
- It is also great to find joy thinking about where you hope to be in the future.
- But do not forget to enjoy the moment and find joy in the place where you are currently! Whether you are recovering from injury or running a marathon PR, there is plenty of joy to be had right now!
- Lately as my running has struggled, I have still been able to find joy in several ways: Running with our family dog has been fun. Slowing down and enjoying the beautiful scenery of Lake Guntersville (which I have the pleasure of running next to daily now) often leaves me in awe of God’s creation. I have found a new love for getting off the pavement and running on grass and dirt.
7. The Running Community Is Awesome!
- I have seen it both in Indiana and now in Alabama, and I have read about it in countless Facebook and message board posts. The global running community is overall one of the most accepting, supportive and inspiring groups of people out there!
- I once heard a great sermon that compared the Christian Church to the bar in the TV show Cheers. The preacher basically said the church should be a place “where everybody knows your name,” a place where you can lay all your deepest troubles out there and help each other overcome. In the same way, the church could learn a lot from the running community (Read more about this idea in my post “Why the Church Should Be More Like the Running Community“).