Running through life

There’s nothing like a challenge to get you running again. With COVID running wild last year, all running events were cancelled (yes, there were virtual events, but running around your back garden 500 times doesn’t do it for me!). But now I’m booked for a 10K that’s been postponed several times. And with this pandemic (hopefully!) on its way out, it looks like it’ll finally go ahead as planned.

So the excuses are over, and I’m back pounding the pavements for the next couple of weeks. And now that I’m back into the zone of running, I realise that life’s not all that different. There’s a lot a good run can teach us about living. If we take some lessons, we stand a great chance of getting the most from our time in this world.

The greatness is in the final push

I train using Jeff Galloway’s run-walk-run method. Run a couple of minutes, walk a few minutes, repeat. It’s always about making it to the farthest point possible before running out of breath, just pushing myself to the next tree.

In any worthwhile endeavour, Sometimes it’s that final push that’s the toughest. But it’s at that point that you want to keep going. That’s when you achieve greatness- when you’ve pushed yourself over the finish line. So when your energy starts waning, keep going. That’s when you might be closest to your goal.

You’re racing against yourself and yourself only

When you take on a challenge like a 10K run, you’re up against one person- yourself. Even if you’re running with a friend, their speed is of no consequence to you. Whether you’re aiming to beat your previous speed or just focused on getting over the finish line, you are your only competitor here.

That goes for anything in life. No matter what your friends’ lives look like on social media, it’s important to remember that life is not a race against anyone. Comparing your life to that of someone else never gets you anywhere. Be yourself- everyone else is taken.

Sometimes you speed, sometimes you slow

No one goes through their run at the same pace. At times you’re full of energy, and you rocket off. You power past everyone else as you zoom up the track. But eventually, your energy wanes. You run out of breath and slow down to conserve energy.

When going through life, you can find yourself flying through some days. Those are the days when everything goes well, and you slice through everything you want to achieve. But then come the days that aren’t quite what we expected them to be. The days when things go pear shaped, the days when you’re just too tired, physically or emotionally, to achieve your best. You feel guilty, thinking about all the things you never got to do.

But on those days, we’ve got to be kind to ourselves. Remember, no one runs at high energy every day. Up days and down days are part of the human condition. You’re as human as the rest of us. Just get up tomorrow and keep going.

The best things in life take time

Now, admittedly I had to train with a bit more urgency, as I only began a month before. But that didn’t mean doing six miles on day one. The first two sessions weren’t more than a mile (I forgot to track it). The following week, I upped my game, making it two miles. Yesterday, it was three miles.

And if I had been sensible enough to start earlier, I would have been able to go slower and easier.

Your life goals are no different. Expecting everything to fall into place in life super quickly doesn’t work. We get disappointed when things don’t go as planned when we don’t grow at the pace we wanted to. And with so much available instantaneously, it’s hardly surprising that we expect that. But life is not like that. Good things take time and need patience. Trying to rush the process doesn’t help. Sometimes, slow and steady really does win the race.

Think long-term

I am, by nature, a procrastinator. And as any procrastinator knows, the hardest part is getting started. It’s uncomfortable, and who wants to put themselves through pain voluntarily? It’s so much easier to stay in our comfortable, familiar couch binging on Netflix.

In those cases, I find that visualising the great feeling at the end is a great motivator. Picturing myself collapsing into the couch, sweating, tired and exhilarated, is often all I need to get myself out the door.

Humans are short-sighted. When faced with change, we don’t immediately see past the discomfort of it. That’s how we’re conditioned. And for a good reason. If we don’t feel pain, what would stop us from playing fire as kids? Pain is our red flag, our ‘danger ahead’ sign. It prevents us from making wrong turns in life.

But sometimes, those signals are misplaced and dangerous. When you’re striving for a goal, that voice telling you to stick purely to what’s easy and familiar can be your worst enemy. It can convince you to miss an opportunity to get to the next stage of your journey to greatness.

That’s when it helps to envision how you expect to feel when you have achieved that goal. It’s hard to exchange the ease of watching a movie with the pain of working on an assignment. In that situation, try picturing in your mind the empowerment you’ll feel once you’ve done the hard work. Once you can imagine the long-term feelings, you’ll be motivated to bring those goals closer to reality. With those thoughts in your head, who cares about short term comfort anymore?

The race for life ends when your time comes. As long as we’re down here on earth, we’ve got to keep doing what we can leave it better for us occupying it.

Keep running!

(P.S. I don’t mind telling you that this is a charity run for Camp Simcha UK, a charity that supports families of children who suffer from terminal and lifelong illnesses. If you enjoyed this, why not sponsor me and help out a great cause?