On July 12 I ended my 6 year, 2 month running streak of running 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) every day. You can read why in the previous post. It was not my idea and I wasn’t very happy about it but this doctor is one of the good ones and I trust his judgment enough to follow his orders of not running at all for 6 weeks. I have to admit, 6 years was a pretty good streak and I know I was all kinds of lucky to get that far. And you’d think that 6 years of that kind of running would teach a person a few things. I guess we’ll see. The things that come to mind are listed below for your edification.
You are a runner
About 4 years into my 5K everyday streak I finally referred to myself as “a runner” for the first time. I’m hesitant to give myself titles. OK, I know I often give myself titles like “The Pope Of Waffles” or “The Pope Of Sand Sculpture” but that’s just my goofy humor. I’d really like to be the actual Pope but I like Georgie and I’m Baptist and all. Anyway, I didn’t really consider myself a “real” runner because I didn’t have lots of running stuff and I didn’t read running magazines. I just ran. My running clothes are just whatever shorts are on sale at TJ Maxx and maybe an old t-shirt in the winter. I may get my armband for my phone there too. I’m a little more picky about my shoes and socks but I’ve got plenty of socks from TJ Maxx or Marshalls. I don’t go to running stores, I don’t read running books and in real life I don’t talk about running much at all. I was convinced I wasn’t a real runner. But I ran more than a lot of real runners and apparently I was faster than many of them too. The more I learned about other runners, the more I realized I was a runner too. Once I got over that mental hurdle I realized that everyone who runs is a runner. Once a week? Once a month? Once a year? Did you go outside and run one time? You’re a runner. A real runner.
It’s all in your head
Do you think you can run a mile? If you do, you can. Do you think you can run a half marathon? If you do, you can. Whatever excuse you can think of right now, it’s total crap. You’re not too heavy. You’re not too old. You’re not too weak. You’re not too anything. If you think you can do it, you can. I’ve watched people run a 5K with zero training. I’ve known people who ran half marathons on a whim with no training. But the flip side is also true, if you think you can’t, you absolutely cannot. Your mind is the strongest part of you. It’s stronger than your muscles, stronger than your legs, stronger than that hill in front of you. If you tell your body you can do it, your body will listen. I would bet there’s actual scientific verification of this but I can tell you that 6 years of continuous 5Ks do not happen unless you tell yourself every single day that you can do it. Trust me on this. Tell yourself you can and you will.
Running will make it feel better
One of the things about a run streak of any kind is the daily temptation to not run. You wake up and can’t breathe and the logical part of your brain says, “yeah, you shouldn’t run today.” Or you have that weird tightness in your hip. The sore back is a good one too. Everyone around you who is not on a running streak tells you that you should probably take a day off. But you’re stubborn. So you get up and blow your nose and stretch your back and you run. And guess what? You feel better. The sinuses clear out after a mile and you can breathe better than ever before. Your hip loosens up and your back feels great because one of the best things you can do for your body is use it. And it’s not just endorphins tricking you, you actually feel better the rest of the day. And this is not just a physical remedy, it also works mentally and emotionally. That jerk that pissed you off at work all day? A run will fix it. All the work you have due at the end of the week? A run will help. There is actually science to back this up and it has to do with increased blood flow to the brain and it does really help. Whatever you got, running may not fix it completely, but it can make it feel better.
Running (and coffee) saves lives
Related to the one above, that increased blood flow to the brain will help you not want to punch that person in the throat quite as much. It will make you not want to run that ridiculous driver off the road. This was not as obvious to me when I was running as it is now that I’m not running but let me tell you, today I have wanted to punch at least 3 people in the throat. I’ve wanted to run no less than 5 people off the road because they haven’t the slightest clue how to drive. And I’m in a good mood. Things are great. But I still need running to even me out. I don’t even want to think about what could happen if I didn’t have my coffee!
Running is a solo activity for me. I run every day alone. It’s a good 25 minutes of quiet time and it’s amazing. During that time my mind wanders. I solve most of the world’s problems by the end of mile 1. I’m not afraid to confess to you that I spend a good bit of my running time talking to myself or to God. Not out loud, I’m not completely insane, but there are definite conversations. You may call this prayer or meditation or whatever fits your particular belief system, that’s cool with me. For me, it’s a time of remembering the things that are important to me and thinking about the people I know who are struggling. If I know you personally whether we’ve met in person or if we only know each other through the interwebs, there’s a good chance you’ve been mentioned during this time. Regardless of your thoughts on God, this is good energy and it’s a good thing to be a part of it. Of course, prayer or meditation is not just about asking for favors. It is a great time to express gratitude. Few things help you see your own blessings more effectively than thinking of your friends who are walking in valleys. My beliefs tell me that prayer is good for me because it puts my heart where it needs to be, refocusing me on others instead of on myself. Running gives me that time and it helps to point my heart outward.
Easy is bad
These last two weeks not running, I’ve noticed how easy it is to not exercise. In addition to running each day, I also partake in an exercise routine called PiYo, a combination of Pilates and Yoga. Each night before bed I also do a series of strength and stretch exercises. These last two weeks I’ve slept a little later and not worried about the weather or temperature when I wake up. I haven’t had to wait an hour to have my morning coffee. When I’m sleepy, I just go to bed. It’s so easy. But I feel so bad. I feel like I’m skipping something important. I’m not as flexible as I was two weeks ago. My feet hurt. My knees creak when I walk up the stairs. I’m not burning off my calories and I feel like an inflatable pool float. I feel like I’m rusting. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not lying in bed all day watching Netflix. I’m moving and getting some walking miles in each day, but it’s not the same as a good workout and my body feels the difference. People joke with me all the time about being so proud of not running unless something is chasing them or how much happier they are eating chips instead of exercising but I don’t buy it. The only thing better than the feeling of exercising is realizing you have the willpower and determination to make yourself exercise even when you don’t want to. That’s a great feeling. That willpower and determination carries over into every aspect of your life. A running friend is fond of saying “I can do hard things” and when you realize you can, you see just how bad easy things are.
Running friends are the best
Speaking of running friends, let’s talk about those for a minute. Some of my running friends I see in person from time to time and even run with them once a week during school. Other running friends I may email or text with and honestly we mostly don’t talk about running. Then there are the other running friends, the ones on Instagram that I’ve never met but I feel such a connection with because of our shared passion and insanity. All of them understand something about the ridiculousness of waking up and thinking that running several miles outside is a good time. They all understand what it means to put your desire for fitness and good health above your desire to be lazy. They know that first mile is a liar and that you have to save something for that last hundred yards. They know bright colored running shoes make you faster. They understand the joy of tall, nonsensical socks. We get each other because we are all the same kind of crazy. But they also sense when you are in a rut or are feeling out of sorts and they are some of the first people to come in with encouragement. They know what a bad run feels like and they know how to dispel discouragement. My friend Catherine lives across the world and we’ve ran together on birthdays. My friend Beth who “can do hard things” demonstrates daily how to get literally everything done and is such an encouragement. I even have two friends, Dominic and Ursa who felt so bad for me not being allowed to run that they decided to run my 5K every day for me. Can you even imagine? I am blown away by these people on a daily basis. I am grateful for running friends near and far.
You are inspiring
These friends inspire me to keep getting up and getting those miles. Just knowing that people are getting up and getting over their own obstacles helps me see that I can get over mine as well. If they can run, I can too. I’ve had a couple of people tell me that they got out and ran because they saw me doing it. They’re out making big changes in their lives just because they were inspired. Just this week a person told me they just started running because they saw one of my running friends running every day. All of the good things about running described above, now that person gets to have all of that, just because someone else laced up their shoes and decided they could run. Think about the people you know in your life and all the things they have to deal with each day. What could running do for them? Maybe it could give them an extra 10 years of good health. Maybe it could help them stay mentally balanced. Maybe it could keep them emotionally stable. Maybe it could provide a positive addiction to replace a negative one. Maybe it could help them shed some pounds or just feel better about themselves. And what if the motivation to do that came from you? You have that power. You just need to put on your shoes and lean forward.
*You can get to know some of my inspiring running friends on Instagram by checking them out here: @catherine.is.running, @bethelaine27, @pushthruthewall, @therunstreakgirl, @ursamich, @rock_toss_jess, @zombiee_odis just to name a few.