Life Lessons Learned While Running

Running has unintentionally become a metaphor for my life. I say unintentionally because I never really wanted to be a runner. At first I wasn’t good at it. Then my asthma held me back. Then I fought off hip flexors and shin splints. I spent ages twelve through twenty fighting off running despite my participation in soccer and track. It was a necessary evil; I really wanted to do yoga, the elliptical or take workout classes, but running pursued me.

Somewhere along the line I stopped fighting running. I gave into it. As I’ve surrendered to it, running has become one of my spiritual disciplines.

I ran the Carmel Half Marathon on Saturday. While the weather was perfect, my race ended up being less than perfect. I set a time goal for completion based on my previous half marathon. This was the goal I kept in my mind when I ran through the snow in February. This was the goal that I focused on and prepared for. And then race day came. I actually ran this race slower than my previous half marathon despite focusing more on training the past 3 months.

I was disappointed. Let’s just say that there were tears on Saturday between miles 9 and 13.

I felt defeated.

In the midst of my pity party, I asked God what He was trying to teach me. While I did not feel teachable as my calf muscles cramped and tears ran down my face, as soon as I crossed that finish line, I was going to be done with this race, so I needed to process then because I was not going to process it later.

  1. This lesson is not metaphoric or deep, its just reality. The cramps in my calves that forced me to run were likely due to dehydration. I hope to run another half marathon and actually run the whole thing, hopefully at my goal time, but to do that, I will have to learn how to better hydrate my body. I don’t always love my body well. I make my best effort, but I’m 24 and usually work at least 55 hours a week, so eating well and hydrating are not at the top of my priority list. This is a huge area I hope to grow. Too many times I use busyness be an excuse for things. If I do not learn how to priority drinking water, going to the grocery store and cooking good food, the rest of my life is going to be a mess. Taking care of the important stuff first is a life lesson I’ve got to learn.
  2. I failed to let community run alongside me. I was too busy being angry that my parents were not coming into town that I did not think to have them download the app that would allow them to track me. I did not think to give my bib number to a fellow running and praying friend. When we face tasks that are difficult, no matter how hard we’ve trained, we must invite our people into it. We were not meant to go through life alone, and the tricky part is asking people to come alongside you.
  1. Sometimes the lesson lies in the training, not in the race. I had so many good training runs this spring. I watched my body get faster and stronger. I ran in the snow and in the sunshine. To God, it was way more about the lessons he wanted to teach me through training than how fast I ran on race day. So often I focus on the finish line, not the journey there. The most important lessons will not be learned on race day, but in the months leading up to it. The anticipation, the discipline, the sweat, the tears — this is where the growth is.

After my race, I went home, plugged in my phone, curled up in a ball and cried for a couple minutes. Then, I took a shower and jumped in a car to head to a wedding for a good friend. I’m learning how to rebound from disappointment, and perhaps that’s just one of the many lessons God is going to force me to learn.

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