As I have been getting back into running in the last couple months, I’ve begun to think about the parallels between it and life. When you stop and ponder, there are a lot of lessons to be learned from running, just as in life.
I started running when I was around 12 or 13. At first, it was a struggle. I barely even made it a mile or much more than that. I eventually got to the point where I could do a 2.4 mile race in Springfield at Van Horn Park called the Child’s race for kids 15 and under.
Soon, I progressed to running cross country at East Longmeadow High School, eventually building up to being able to run as much as 16 miles at one point. It took a long time to get there (around 4 or 5 years after I started running), but it was well worth it. I did longer runs of 10 or more miles every Sunday during cross country and the summers in my junior and senior years of high school.
The long runs became a time of peace for me. A time when I didn’t have to think about anything but running. Sometimes, they seemed to drag on during hot days or days that were bitterly cold. However, there were times where everything just flowed perfectly and it seemed like I could run forever.
Isn’t that how life works, too? There are days where you feel like you can’t go anymore. Days that seem to drag on forever and nothing is going right. Much like running, where certain runs felt like I couldn’t settle into a good pace at all; I was constantly struggling to get into any rhythm.
Then there are days in life where everything seems to go perfectly. You go to a concert of your favorite artist and they play all the right songs. You go to the Red Sox and Jon Lester throws a no-hitter. Without those bad days, you wouldn’t be able to appreciate the good ones. Just like you can’t appreciate those great runs without having some mediocre or bad ones mixed in.
To quote the famous running book Once a Runner (which I unfortunately haven’t actually read), “You don’t become a runner by winning a morning workout. The only true way is to marshal the ferocity of your ambition over the course of many day, weeks, months, and (if you could finally come to accept it) years. The Trial of Miles; Miles of Trials.”
The gist of this quote was that everyone wanted to know the secret of this runner who was quite good. Was there a certain workout he did that nobody knew about? Was there some special way he trained? The answer, they came to find out from running with him, was that there was no real secret. He simply put in the work every day; he literally pounded the pavement more than most were willing to. It wasn’t about the pace or workouts as much as it was just being consistent.
Looking back to high school, this quote could definitely be applied to my training. After a reasonably good freshman year of cross country, I took things for granted going into my sophomore year and didn’t train all that much during the summer. I quickly paid for it.
Running isn’t all that forgiving. You will be surprised at how quickly you can lose everything you had trained for in a relatively short amount of time when you stop running. Just like in life, when if you’re not consistent with something, you won’t be all that successful.
My times weren’t necessarily worse my sophomore year, yet they weren’t all that much better. Runners who I was close with or would beat my freshman year who trained more consistently than I did left me in the dust in all the races, no matter how much I tried to hang on.
Finally, I’d had enough and realized the only way to get better was to train more. A lot more. I had a fire lit under me due to failure. There was no magic secret. I simply went out there most days and ran, whether I felt like it or not. Gradually, I got better. My junior year, my times dropped a lot and I got the most improved runner award. By my senior year, I was the number 7 runner on the team, getting into the last spot for the Western Mass. Championship. It had been my goal since freshman year. As I was never the fastest runner on sheer talent alone, it was all because of consistency that I was able to improve so much.
During college on the rowing team at UNH, I ran less, but was still in pretty good shape and could still do longer runs/run at a reasonable pace when I did run. However, after college, I began to run and exercise less. Suddenly, after 8 years of running in high school and rowing in college, I had nothing to train for. There was no team to push me anymore. No workouts were given to me, and there was no upcoming race to train for. I still did run some or workout, but it didn’t really feel the same.
Although I have begun running more (only around 2 or 3 days a week right now compared to the 6 or 7 I used to do), it still doesn’t feel quite the same. I certainly can’t run as fast as I used to right now, but that doesn’t seem to bother me as much. It doesn’t really seem to bother me as much, either, that I’m not running as far as I used to. What I am happy about is that I’m running at all.
You see, going with the flow is really the best thing you can do in both running and life. When you force things to happen in life, forcing that relationship you really want to happen or really obsessing over getting a certain time or pace when you’re running, it doesn’t seem to work out too well. Lately, I have been trying to just run. To just enjoy the time and distance I am running, no matter how slow or short it may be. The best runs, I have found, are the ones where you just let things flow. Those long runs that seem like you could keep going forever, or those faster runs where it feels like you’re flying and will never come back down.
Although I have gone through a lot of struggles in life already which I have referenced in previous blog posts, I have begun to take a new attitude towards it due to the lessons running has taught me. You can’t expect to go out there and run 10 miles right away, nor can you expect to run 10 miles after not running in a while. At least not in my case. I have to tell myself, too, that I can’t expect things to happen like moving to New York or somewhere else like I want to without being consistent at saving money, at trying to find a job I like that pays reasonably well, at doing all the little things.
The Trial of Miles; Miles of Trials.