Life Lessons From Running

Proper-Running-FormThis week I passed the 200 mile mark in my running. For those who run marathons, it’s not much of an accomplishment, they do 1/8 of that every time that they go out and run a marathon, but for me, who has never been much of a runner, it was a big accomplishment.

After pushing myself to my limit and beyond for a number of years and after enduring a season of strife and difficulty in my life, I had finally pulled myself to the doctor last Fall. I knew that things were not good, I could feel it. My body was not doing what it used to do and I could sense that something was off, I just didn’t know what it was.

After some tests and visits to a few doctors, I came to find out that my heart was pumping weakly. Having a history of heart disease in my family, it was a wake-up call. It scared me as I considered my wife and three kids. I didn’t want to leave them behind because I was too stupid and selfish to take care of myself. So, I started running.

I’m not fast and I don’t even particularly like to run, but it provides me time alone to think and aerobic exercise which seems to be a winning combination. I get up at the crack of dawn and run while it’s still dark.

As I pass this milestone for me, I realized that there are a lot of life lessons that I’ve learned through my running in this brief time. Here are a few of the takeaways that I have had in my brief time running.

1) Running is way more mental than I ever realized – So many different sports are mental, but you don’t always think about it until you are actually doing it. As I run 3 or 4 times a week, I realize just how much my mind can either propel me forward or keep me back. The moment that my tired bones and muscles communicate their state to my brain is the minute that I can feel myself starting to slip into an even slower jog. If I don’t get control over my mental state, I can easily find myself turning into a slacker. Waking up early. Running faster. There are so many factors that are dictated and driven by my mental state and coming to grip with that, realizing it, is an important part of moving forward.

2) Motivation is a powerful thing – All it took for me to get my butt in gear was one visit to the doctor and being told that things weren’t what they were supposed to be. I knew it in my heart before I had even shown up at the doctor, but being told this by a professional was enough motivation for me. I never would have thought that I would have done everything that I have done up to this point, but alas, here I am. I don’t want to overspiritualize the situation, but Paul’s words in Philippians 4:12-13 seem to ring true to me, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

3) I still don’t fully know what I am capable of doing – I’m still stepping gingerly and tentatively into this endeavor. I’m being cautious and careful, and maybe even safe. Some might even say “too safe.” There is still fear in my and I just don’t know what my body is capable of doing, but I still keep doing. Every once in a while, I get a push and I move forward. There is still enough newness in this whole thing to keep it fresh and exciting for me. Since I don’t know what I can do, there are always surprises, and for me, that’s a good thing. The minute that it stops having some surprises is the minute that it stops being fun and I stop really caring about it anymore.

4) There is a fine line between being comfortable and knowing your limits – I’ve been running on this line. Since I run in the morning, I know that I still have the whole day in front of me when I finish a run. There is a fear in me that I will expend all of my energy and then have nothing left for the day. It’s not likely to happen, but it’s still a fear that I have to overcome. There is that fine line between staying in a comfortable place and knowing how much you can push yourself. To be honest, this is probably one reserved for a full blog post some day, so I won’t say much about it here, other than to say that #1 very much plays into this as well and my mental state can convince me whether or not I am pushing myself, staying comfortable, or knowing my own limitations.

5) Better together – When my wife and I celebrated 10 years of marriage together, it was a month before I lost my mom. My wife was also pregnant with our daughter, so there were factors that kept us from focusing a lot on ourselves. But one thing that I was able to do was pull together a video of our first 10 years together. One predominant theme throughout those years was that we were better together. We sometimes tried to do things on our own, projects, cleaning, whatever, but we found that we had more fun and got way more accomplished when we pooled our resources and did it together.

The same can be said for running. The times that I have run faster and harder are the times that I have had someone with me, pushing me, inspiring me, encouraging me. We weren’t created to be alone, we were created for intimacy, to be together in community. I am better when I have others around me to inspire, encourage, and provoke me (in the best way possible).

Like I said, I’m not really a big fan of running, but I am a fan of what it has afforded me. I’m a fan of the fact that I have time to clear my head, to get exercise, and to push myself to see what I can accomplish. I don’t know what kind of races I will run in the future, I don’t imagine that a half marathon or full marathon are in the cards for me, but who knows.

For now, I’ll just keep running and learning the life lessons that come across as I run. I’ll embrace Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, “24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

Because running is really about more than just running, it’s about life and all the lessons you can learn along the way.

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