14 Life Lessons Running Teaches You

Jogging isn’t just a workout.  This is one of the big keys to understanding why runners always talk about running, even to those who couldn’t care less about running.  For most of us, the trot itself is a life coach.  It paves the path for processing and understanding our existence. Here are a few examples of what I mean:

1.  Plans are needed to reach big goals.  Anyone who has trained for a race can tell you that you can’t just expect to show up on race day and nail it.  For big mileage goals, I plan my weekly runs out for about six months in advance.  This has reminded me that if I want to see positive changes in my career, within my family, or in myself, it will take time, and some sort of medication therapy strategy.

2.  Plans are never followed through to a T.  Something always happens.  Injuries creep up, plans interfere with training, the weather doesn’t cooperate, illness strikes. There are usually glitches in the perfect system I mapped out on paper.  I count on needing to make adjustments to what I’ve planned out as a best case scenario.  One of the top rules I live by is to always write plans out in pencil (another one is to always keep the pantry well-stocked with red wine for drowning sorrows and/or celebrating gains).

3.  Scaring yourself every now and again is a good thing.  I have a quote in my classroom that says, “Do one thing each day that scares you”.  This confused one of my students, who asked me if it meant he should jump off a bridge, because that would be scary.  NO, son, that is not what it means.  That’s stupid, not scary.  (Screw standardized testing, it’s examples like these that show us what we REALLY need to teach some of these kids). The quote, of course, is a reminder to take positive risks – even somewhat tiny ones, like at the end of my eight mile run, deciding at the last minute to do ten, or maybe signing up for that race I’ve been fantasizing about, but never had the guts to go for.  Pushing myself out of my comfort zone is the only way I’ll grow, and the only way to keep life interesting.

4.  You never know what you can do if you don’t ever try.  After running my first marathon, it really struck me that even a year before I had not considered myself to be a “real” runner, and had definitely said out loud, on multiple occasions, that I would NEVER be a marathoner.  I really never thought I could do something like that.  I remember a pal of mine talking about her fifteen mile runs, and thinking she was absolutely crazy.  Now, a few years later, I run at least a ten mile run almost every weekend.  I’m often reminded how shockingly out of shape I can be, and still be able to do this.  Running that marathon made me realize there are probably a lot of other things I could do that I’ve been too chicken to even consider.

5.  Stubbornness pays off.  If it really matters, find a way, find a way, find a way. Excuses are the easy way out and actions, not hopeful wishes or pretty Pinterest quotes, define what truly matters to us.

7.  You don’t lose that many friends attending social functions smelling and looking like crap.  And the ones you might lose aren’t worth keeping.  It’s a good litmus test, really. Running eats up a decent amount of time and there are only so many hours in the day, so as my mileage increases, so do the chances of me showing up to happy hour events or informal social gatherings in my ridiculously clingy and sweat-soaked garb.  If I’m feeling especially self-conscious I may change into jeans in my car before I arrive, however this always results in me giving myself a mini heart-attack as I try to peel the skin-tight material off my sweaty legs and I panic about getting arrested for indecent exposure.  It’s usually not worth the anxiety attack and I just show up in the ugly tights, thighs right out there in the open for all to witness.  The people I really want to spend time with don’t care about such superficiality.

8.  No one is going to do the work for you.  I can join running groups, and download running apps and buy expensive running shoes and a million fancy shirts with the thumb-holes built in, but at the end of the day, I’ve got to run my own miles.

9. Being alone with your thoughts can be scary.  But, it’s important.  I can’t process all the jumbled thoughts racing through my brain without a little time alone.  And, let’s be honest, I’ve got a lot of shit to work through in that skull of mine – it’s about as big of a mess in there as the back storage area of my grandmother’s basement, and while I love her zesty personality and her golden heart, she’s borderline hoarder material with more than a twinge of ADHD.  That basement is a mess.

10.  Good socks are one of the most important things in life.  Seriously.  Happy feet = heavenly life.  Cold/wet feet = horribly icy, frozen hellish existence.  All bow to the SmartWool Gods.

11.   Bladder and bowel control should never be taken for granted.  Never. Never ever. There is nothing worse than feeling gravity’s pull on a full bladder or a heaviness with each step that causes you to pray your ass doesn’t betray you by turning into an anal volcano. It is unfortunate that most running routes have a noticeable lack of access to public restrooms.  Dear Starbucks workers four miles from my house, please don’t mind my sweaty Saturday morning pit stops.  Trust me, I buy enough coffee from you during the work week to pay for all the toilet paper I use up on the weekend.

12.  If you do something for the wrong reasons you’re going to hate it. Continuous pressure to increase mileage or increase pace, or feeling guilty about not taking break, is just a big huge set-up for burn-out (and probably injury).  All runners know that, for the most part, the only person that really cares about their running is THEMSELVES. Running, like most life endeavors, is highly personal, and if I’m going to do it, I’m going to be damned sure I’m doing it to make myself a happier, stronger, and better me. Every once in awhile I get that feeling of needing to keep up with the Joneses, but I am constantly kicking myself in my own ass to remind myself that my real goal is to keep moving towards finding as much inner peace as possible.  My life goal is not to beat Joe Schmo in a 5k.  So, every now and again, I need to skip the trot and eat half a Margherita pizza washed down with a Two Hearted Ale.  There are times when feeding the soul is more important than pounding the pavement.

13.  Never judge the strength of someone from the few encounters you witness.  Sure, there are plenty of runs that I’m feeling strong and I look like I know what I’m doing but just as in life, there are days that just utterly suck.  There may or may not have been runs where I was the freak show with tears pouring out my eyes, holding a Ziploc baggie full of raisins that my frozen fingers only somewhat successfully managed to get to my mouth without spilling.  The person who gave me a raised eyebrow as she saw me hobbling along, leaving a trail of raisins and tears, had no idea that I ran twenty miles that day.  At certain points we’re all that person and it’s humbling to remember that.

14.  You don’t have as much control as you think.  A sore tendon here, an achy joint there, all and my running days can come to a crashing halt.  I know that at some point I may have to find another way to get where I need to go.


14 Life Lessons Taught to Me by Running
14 Life Lessons Taught to Me by Running



3 thoughts on “14 Life Lessons Running Teaches You

  1. After months without running, I’d just begun toying with the idea of returning to it. I miss the time alone with my thoughts and the ocean.

    Your post pushed me much, much closer. Thanks for that.

    (Agree with it all!)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s