“You did what?!” the typical reaction I get when someone hears I just spent my Sunday morning running 30 or so kilometers. When you’re a runner, it’s either people totally get you or think you’re completely out of your mind (that is until, they themselves start running).
I must admit, I did start running as a part of my health journey. But over the years it’s become so much more than that. So, after having finished my first marathon without dying (YAY), I figured I should share my experience and hopefully add to this community of crazies.
The beauty of running is that it is such a simple, yet so apt metaphor for how you approach life. So here goes, my reflection of the life’s lesson’s I’ve learnt while pounding the pavement:
You are capable
You were born for this. You are equipped. Of course there are millions of gadgets and gear that advertisers punt to “enhance performance” or “help you go longer” during a run, but in actual fact, the human body was created to move. I started running on a treadmill at the gym, simply because I didn’t know what else to do when I entered. Then a friend of mine invited me to these weekly 5k’s held on Saturdays -Parkrun. Obviously, the insecure and competitive part of me did NOT want to be the fat girl holding everyone back so now I had to be jogging at a decent speed, meaning my treadmill runs turned into training. Within 3 months, I’d run my first 10k (finishing ahead of the skinny girls I started Parkrun with *insert fist pump here*) and the rest is history.
Life is pretty much the same, the only way to know if you’re any good at something is to start, just start – for whatever reason. Take the first step, you never know what potential is within you to achieve things you never imagined you could if you don’t start.
Run your own race
Like I said, my early running experience was just about losing weight (or fool myself that I can afford to eat a few extra calories without the guilt lol). It was a means to an end, a necessary evil, something I would not have to do if I was skinny. On the other hand, some people start running because they were good at athletics during their school days and this was just an extension of that, or relieve stress bla bla. Everyone has their own reasons, and those reasons vary just as much as the runners themselves.
We runners come in all shapes, ages and sizes. This is something I learnt whilst running my first half marathon 2 years ago. I was so sure I could “beat that old lady”, “catch up with the chubby guy” or at least keep up with “ma O’lady” that I didn’t focus on my own run. Needless to say, they all finished ahead of me and I was duly humbled. My best runs (and times) have been achieved on days when I run to my own beat, set my own pace, rest when I need to, etc. Note to self – run your own race (in every aspect of your life).
Help is always around the corner
Running is a community. Every runner knows the feeling of struggling through that first 5k and panting like a German shepherd, and they will always encourage you to keep going because the feeling of achievement when you can outright run without breaking a sweat is absolute glory. Ask your neighbhour, gym assistant, or colleagues if they know of a running group in you area. You’ll be surprised at how far camaraderie can get you. Two days before my first marathon, I met a gentleman who is a veteran Comrades finisher and he offered to run with me. My first thought was “hell no, I don’t want to be chasing a pro for 42.2km’s”. Little did I know that Sammy would be just the distraction I needed, we chatted along the way, stopped to refuel, took walk breaks – I didn’t even notice the scars and chaffing I got from all the sweating. Instead of complaining about how sore my legs were and how sun burnt I was, we talked about life and all sorts of randomness. Next thing I knew, I was going to the finish to fetch my medal.
Similarly in life, you never know who you’ll meet or how they’ll impact your life. Be open – crazy advice coming from an introvert like me. Friends are found in the most awkward of situations – and lives changed in the process.
Commit or quit
To enjoy running, one has to be consistent. You need to train, eat properly, rest – repeat. It took me a whole year to finally run a marathon simply because I kept fading half way through my training program. Too many late nights enjoying cocktails and too many missed training runs would ruin my progress and I’d have to postpone my goal to run a full marathon (again). Not until i decided to re-arrange my schedule in order to make 4:30 am training runs and evening cross-training sessions did I reach a point where I felt comfortable my body was ready. Similarly, anything worthwhile in achieving requires dedication and commitment – there are just no short cuts.