Friday, August 16, 2019

Six Impossible Things Running Has Taught Me About Living

A completely different post should have gone out last Friday. But here it is...Wednesday. Oops! Now Thursday! Okay, Yikes! Friday!
And I find myself writing finalizing a completely different post.

See, I lost my job last Thursday when my position was eliminated. Suffice to say, it's been a shock to the system, as all losses are. I've been down this unemployment road before, but now I'm a runner! I have a new perspective on new paths I might travel next. Running has taught me to believe at least "six impossible things" about life. Any Alice in Wonderland friends out there? Well, here goes:

1. Keep moving forward, even when it sucks.

I have days where the actual act of running is torture. Whether it's my mental state (I'd rather be lounging on my couch; oh god, it's only been five minutes but it feels like five hours!) or my physical state (my entire body hurts; I can't breathe; I'm so hot/cold I'm going to die), some runs are just the worst! But when all is said and done, I feel so accomplished when I'm done.

This reminds me that not everything in life that's worth doing is enjoyable all the time. But pushing through tough situations makes the end result feel that much better. Plus, working through tough situations sure beats sitting on the couch whining about what I wish I could do.

2. A mile is a mile—no matter the pace.

I used to think that if I didn't run fast, I wasn't a runner. So when I first started running, I ran as fast as I could, which often led to pain, nausea, and burnout. Over time, I've come to realize that running a 13 minute mile is still the same distance as running an 8 minute mile. Some days I feel phenomenal as I seemingly fly down the road. Other days, I need to take it turtle pace. So I honor what my body tells me on any given day and adjust my pace accordingly. It definitely makes for a healthier, more enjoyable run.

I use this self-assessment in other areas of my life now too. I used to think nothing would get accomplished if I wasn't always on the go—moving from one thing to the next. Whether it's checking off items on my to-do list, tackling domestic duties, managing my social calendar, or scheduling time for my personal writing, I now remind myself that I will get it all done—eventually. If it takes longer than expected, so be it. There will always be that extra mile waiting just around the bend. Life is too short to run myself ragged.

3. Breaks are necessary for success.

This one goes hand in hand with pace. Just as I self-assess my speed, I've learned to take breaks during longer runs. Actually, I can thank my very first coach Laura Morris for this gem. She had me walk through every water stop at my first half marathon and my first marathon to stay on track with my desired finish time. Sounds counterintuitive, right? Stopping to go faster? She was right. Taking a few seconds, sometimes minutes, to catch my breath, fuel up, and drink some water helped me regroup and maintain my stamina for the long run (pun intended).

Whenever life starts to overwhelm me and it feels like I'm moving so fast I can't see straight, I take some time to regroup. I get off social media, step away from my phone, and just live in the moment by myself for a few days. These "life breaks" really help reset body, mind, and soul so I can remain the productive, disciplined worker that I am. And I feel happier overall. It's all about balance.

4. It's okay to accept help when offered and to ask for help too.

© Susan Egan
Anyone who knows me knows I struggle with accepting help or asking for help. But when I became a runner, I quickly learned that support from others can be lifesaving. For example, during the Seven Sisters Trail Race, a complete stranger caught me as I tripped down a rocky descent, saving me from major injury. He even stayed with me a short while to make sure I was okay—during a race!  Accepting and offering help is a given in my running community—spectators on the sidelines handing out orange slices and electrolytes, volunteers hiking through forests to provide racers food and supplies, competitors offering their last drop of water to a runner in distress. Egos aside, we runners depend on this support to succeed.

So, as uncomfortable as I feel, I'm learning to accept help from others in all aspects of my life. And I've discovered that I don't feel weaker by "letting people help me." I feel stronger. And freer. Accepting help has made me realize that no one has to go it alone. And it's helped me realize how much I also help others. We're all here for each other, and so much more can be accomplished with "a village."

Running 30 miles at Ghost Train Ultra

5. Do what makes you happy, even if the results are mediocre.

I'm a terrible runner. I am, really. I've developed asthma, which slows me down. I never cross-train. I don't follow rigorous training plans. I'm so bad at running that I realized it's is the first thing I've ever maintained that I'm not naturally good at. I think that's why I hated it for so long. But eventually, I stopped trying to excel at running and that's when I realized how much I love it. Shifting my mindset on enjoying running rather than excelling at running has made me a much happier runner.

This mindset shift has made me enjoy other areas of life that I'm not so great at. I can now laugh at how I park my car all crooked in large parking lots. I accept slightly wrinkled clothes because I haven't mastered ironing. I marvel at the tranquility I feel when I create a terrible painting. I've stopped trying to be the best at everything so I can enjoy things that I never imagined trying before.

6. You can accomplish anything, even the seemingly impossible.

Mt. Tom Ridge
When I first started running, I couldn't imagine running a whole minute, let alone a whole mile. But before I knew it, I was running two whole minutes, then three, then one whole mile, then ten... And now I've run as long as nine hours; as far as 33 miles.

I apply this knowledge and experience to all aspects of my life. When I feel like I could never accomplish [insert difficult decision/tough task/something unknown], I remember how putting one foot in front of the other helped me see I could reach the finish line...and keep on going. So I act on these difficult areas of my life, and remember one step leads to two...and eventually I know I'll make it through ANYTHING. I can accomplish anything, even the seemingly impossible.

And I want to practice these six impossible things at least a half an hour a day. What has running taught you?


  1. So inspiring! I hated running all my life and finally decided to just try it. I'm a Runner now! It's taught me to just keep one foot in front of the other and not worry about how high the hill is that I'm climbing, just focus on making that next step. I've become a hill runner now and I'm so proud of myself. Great post, Sera!

    1. Hooray! This makes me so happy. Also, I've found that discovering my running ability has helped me try on achievements in my regular life that I never thought possible. Win/WIn! Keep on running on!


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