Thoughts From The Road
A Year On The Run (and how it applies to life)
In 2014, one year into my weight-loss journey, I took my first steps towards becoming a runner. Using a C25K (Couch to 5K) app on my phone, I hit the streets and slowly transitioned from walking to running. After some trial and error, and some minor injuries, I finally felt comfortable enough to start to enter local 5k races in January 2015.
After the first few races, I was only able to make it through those first couple miles before I was gassed. I’d end up doing a walk/run over the last mile. While the C25K training got me going, it was apparent that I had a number of lessons left to learn, and looked to local coaching programs to get me through a race.
In May 2015 I started a 5K training program that was being offered by RunOn!, a running store in Dallas. From the outset I started learning that there were quite a number of elements about running that I had not picked up in my initial self-teaching.
As we neared the end of the program, the coaches and a couple of the other runners in the class were urging me to look into signing up for half marathon training. It took a few weeks of pestering, but I made the leap and have not looked back. This initial 5k training and the first half marathon training really opened up the wider world of running to me. I began looking at running as something more than just an activity to keep me in shape.
Since the summer of 2015, I have run 2 half marathons in November and December of 2015. I was training for 2 additional half marathons this past spring, but was unfortunately sidelined by an injury. I've since recovered, have run a 15K race, and recently began training for my first marathon in December.
In this year of participating in a coaching program, there have been countless lessons I have learned along the way, not just about running, but about our personal and professional lives.
There Are No Shortcuts
As much as we hate it, there really are no shortcuts to life. While there are methods I could've taken to drop the weight faster, it would not have changed the habits that led me there. Without putting in the hard work to change those ingrained habits, I never would’ve kept off the weight.
The same goes with running. There is no easy way to go from barely able to run for a minute to running 26.2 miles and beyond. You have to put in the work, slogging away mile after mile to build the endurance that will see you through to the finish.
Through good weather and bad, road miles or treadmill miles, you will reach your goals. If you take shortcuts, then at some point it will catch up to you. If you've done the work, then you can handle any challenge that may arise.
It isn’t always pretty, but it is the struggle and hard work that gets you to the goal.
Manage the Descents
The way to improve your performance in running is to do a variety of workouts. We build speed through interval (i.e. track) workouts. We build strength through hill workouts, essentially running up (and down) a steep road, or similar incline, over and over again. The climb up is actually the easier part, we have one goal and that is to reach the top. The downhill run is the toughest aspect of the workout.
It is easy to coast, take things too fast, and risking injury as you fly down the hill. We’ll expend too much energy going down, and find we are spent before we begin the next climb. You can avoid injury and conserve energy by being more mindful during the downhill. We ease our pace, and let gravity pull us down the hill. This way, we stay in control, and we give the body a chance to rest. While the descent is inevitable, we are recovered when we reach the bottom, and ready to fight our way back to the top.
Life is filled with ups and downs, one long hill repeat. Keep yourself in check during the inevitable descents and you are well prepared for those climbs back to the top.
Strengthen Your Weaknesses
Running is an endurance sport, we only finish by building up our strengths to overcome our weaknesses.
We all have limits, no matter how much you push yourself, you can only handle so much. Whether it is physical or mental, we have to learn to listen to the feedback we are given. As we grow stronger, our weaknesses are reduced, but they are never completely eliminated.
There are good days and there are bad days. If you push yourself too much on bad days, it will eventually lead to a break down. Then on our good days, you’ll realize that it is ok to push yourself a bit more, but without sacrificing your limitations.
Through experience, we hone our individual strengths to overcome our deficiencies and recognize our breaking points. This work leads us to accomplish more and more each day, and when we can push those limits out further.
Slow And Steady
As a new runner, I kept pushing myself to give all my effort every training run. No matter how good or bad I felt, I had to run as fast as I could. Moving up in training pace groups, I kept setting out to "prove" I belonged. Whether it was running at the head of the pack, or overtraining by running too many miles.
My coaches over the last year have always emphasized the need to respect the distance and the pace. Runners train at a “slow” pace in order to get us through to the finish line on race day. We don't have to go all out every day, only when the situation truly calls for it, like a tempo workout or on race day.
Ignoring this was the item that led me into injury. It was also one of the reasons why I was struggling in those first pre-training 5k races. From what I’ve read, it seems it takes an injury for like most runners learn this lesson.
If we are always rushing through the day, trying to do as much as possible in the shortest time, then it is easy to quickly burn out. Be more deliberate with yourself and your actions, and you can find yourself accomplishing more.
Trust The Process
This lesson is the combination of the preceding lessons but from the coaching standpoint. It is easy to focus on yourself within a training program, but you have to be selfless and be open to the wisdom and advice of the coaches as they work towards a shared goal.
Sometimes we may not see the immediate payout to a particular series of workouts. We’ll sometimes think our coaches are secretly plotting our demise, or as they like to call it, track workouts. But they are truly committed to making each and every person a better runner after the training than when they started. As long as you are willing to put in the work, and give the same appreciation and respect your coaches are giving you, then the training will be a success.
Show humility when you run into the inevitable break down during a particularly tough training session, and you’ll be surprised at the compassion and support you can find with your coaches and fellow runners.
We have to realize that the same goes with everyone else we deal with on a daily basis. We have to look past our immediate needs and show the faith and patience in those we deal with daily. We don’t know what they’ve experienced before our interactions, just like they can’t know what we experienced.
Ultimately, in the end we are working towards the same shared goals; to all be better people at the end of the day. And we want the same for all those around us, from our fellow runners, our co-workers, and our friends and families.
There are countless parallels between running and life. Each individual run provides us with new lessons that teach us not only how to be a better runner, but how to approach both our personal and professional lives.
Each new project at work provides you with more than ample opportunities to enact these lessons. No matter the scope of the project, from the simplest flyer to complex website, it will go much smoother if you take the lessons to heart.