Thursday, February 17, 2011

Running Lessons

This is a post from my blog Running to Chicago written in July 2009 when I was training to run the Chicago Marathon as a member of Team in Training.  For some reason, it popped into my head as I walked to work this morning and I thought maybe it was worth sharing.

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On my long run last Sunday, I got thinking about all the things running has taught me.

Hard work, determination, and a positive attitude can take you a long way.
I may not have the natural talent and grace of a gazelle, but with practice, good coaching and a positive attitude, I've learned techniques and developed abilities that help me cover the ground more quickly and feel good doing it.

Small problems become big ones if you don’t deal with them when you should.
I’m constantly amazed at how much trouble a tiny pebble in my shoe or laces that are too tight can cause. If – out of stubbornness or stupidity – I don’t stop to fix the problem quickly enough, I invariably end up with more serious pain or injury somewhere else in my body as it tries to compensate for the changes in my gait.

You’re stronger than you know.
Even after I’d been running for more than a year, I really believed 5km was as far as I’d ever run. Certainly, I never thought I'd be running full and half marathons but, six years later, here I am preparing for my 4th full marathon in Chicago. On days when I feel really strong, I even daydream about running an ultramarathon one day! So it turns out I'm stronger than I knew – a helpful thing to keep in mind when life throws me curves I’m not sure I can handle.

It’s important to be attentive to your body and your thoughts.
I enjoy running with others, but I also like running on my own when it’s easier to tune into what my body and my thoughts are doing. When my mind is repeating negative or discouraging messages, it can be tough to finish a run, so I focus on thinking positive, encouraging thoughts – about my running, my training and my life. I also keep a close eye on what my body’s doing. In the past, I’ve sometimes ignored what it was telling me, and pushed myself to the point of injury or exhaustion. But with time, and experience I’ve come to accept that very often what I most need is to stop, rest, reflect and breathe deeply.

There’s beauty all around you when you remember to look for it.
On a long run, I can be so busy checking my pace, calculating my distance, keeping an eye on traffic, and dealing with whatever bit of my body is uncomfortable at that moment that I forget to notice the beauty around me – the trees, birds and flowers, the laughter of children, the colour of the sky, the smell of the ocean. It’s the same for the rest of my life. I've gone through whole days not paying attention to anything except my own thoughts and worries. To really see, hear, smell, feel and savour the beauty of the world around me, I have to get out of my head and be fully present in my life.

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