When I think back to those first few track practices in middle school, all I remember is muscle pain, pure exhaustion, and a serious lack of oxygen. One of my early running memories took place in Cottondale, a small north Florida town, on a cold and overcast fall day.
I recall watching my hot breath create small misty clouds in the crisp air as my awkward teenage self tailed a group of children running up and down a dirt hill over and over and over again until I felt I could no longer move another muscle.
It was an embarrassing and quite awful experience. To top it all off, I found out later that year that I have exercise-induced asthma. Unless I use an inhaler, I will likely always end up severely up winded a lot faster than other people.
I don’t remember what made me sign up for the track team. Why would anyone in their right mind put themselves through the agony of running for absolutely no reason?! However, it turns out running would change my life.
All I need is a good run.
Eventually, I figured out why all those crazy people run. While it may suck while we’re running, there is a fantastic runner’s high to look forward to after all the discomfort. Euphoria, coupled with reduced anxiety and a lessened ability to feel pain, follows soon after you finish running your heart out.
Over the last three decades, running has saved me on multiple occasions. During breakups, times of anxiety, heartache, and even in good times, running has oddly become my favorite outlet.
As an introverted person, I appreciate that running can be done alone. I don’t have to push myself to reach out to others to get the exercise I need. It is my poison of choice to naturally reduce stress, clear my mind, and learn how to push past any limits I think I have.
Learning resilience in the face of failure.
Speaking of limits and resilience, about a decade ago, years after I stopped running regularly, I decided to run my first 10k in upper state New York. While I did my best to train my body for the event, I wasn’t ready for the weather.
The day of the race came, and a raging storm whipped up. High winds, heavy rain, and very tall, unexpected hills stood in my way. As fate would have it, I was the most unprepared person who attempted to run that day. I was soaking wet, exhausted, and coming in last.
However, a few drenched volunteers continued to stand on the sidelines despite the wild weather and cheered me on to keep going. How could I give up if they were willing to stand out in this downpour for me?? I pressed on and finished that 10k.
Even though it sucked, by experiencing what I felt could be the absolute worst-case scenario that day, I became less afraid of failing in many aspects of my life. While it was a challenging experience to deal with, I survived.
A few years after the 10k, I was crazy enough to sign up for and run a half marathon, 13.1 miles. A few years after that, I ran my first marathon, 26.2 miles. I’m happy to report that my husband and I finished the marathon together, and we did not come in last place.
Running is hard, but sometimes, so is life.
Obstacles are inevitable. Whether you face challenges at work, school, home, or in your relationships with others, you will end up in situations that will push you to your breaking point.
Over the years, running has taught me that you and I have no limits. When you combine training with persistence, anyone can run faster and farther than you think you can. I am eternally grateful that this thought process has carried over into all aspects of my life. We don’t need to be afraid of coming in last place.
The thing is, if you’re willing to run, to lace up your shoes and put in the work, you’re still lapping everyone on the couch. Sometimes, you just have to make the decision and start moving. When you want to stop, don’t. You will continue to improve, and, eventually, you will end up where you want to be.
Winners are not those who never fail, but those who never quit.Edwin Louis Cole