This Saturday will mark the start of my third year of running in races. As I have mentioned before, the first race I ever ran in was the St. Patrick’s Day 5 Mile Race in 2013. It is hard to believe how much I have changed as a runner in just 2 years. I still remember the panicked feeling I had the night before the race and then the morning of. I had been running for almost a year every now and then, but had only been consistently running for about a month or two. I was so worried that I wouldn’t be able to finish the 5 miles and really didn’t know what at all to expect of race day. Despite a few obstacles thrown at me along the way, I made it to the finish line and could not wait until I could run in my next race. Now, I’m obviously addicted to running and race as much my wallet and schedule will allow me!
I have learned a lot during my running journey. I thought I would share some of the things I have learned, and would love to hear what running has taught you in the comments below.
1. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to improve
I wish I could say that I was naturally fast and full of endurance, but I am not. Three years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to run a mile without stopping numerous times and feeling like I was going to die. Even when I could finally run a mile straight, it was very slow. I have had to really dedicate a lot of my time to improve my running and have had to push my limits to get to the speed I am at today (and will continue to have to work very hard to get to the speed I would like to be at!). I have slowly increased my weekly mileage and done different speed workouts to be able to become a faster runner. I used to think 10 miles a week was a lot, but now when there are weeks I only get to 20, I feel bad because I know I should be running more than that! I have had to change my schedule, wake up insanely early, but I absolutely love to run so it doesn’t really feel like a sacrifice to spend so much time on it.
2. Don’t compare yourself to others
This is incredibly hard at times, but I try not to compare myself to other runners. Sometimes I will read a blog of someone who ran a faster half than me, or had an amazing marathon time and I wonder why I couldn’t do that. But this is a waste of time. This person might have been running longer than I have or just have more natural ability, and there is no need to worry why I am not at that level. Sometimes at the gym I will marvel at the speed a person next to me is going and get mad that I can’t go that fast yet. You just need to focus on what you need to do to reach your goals, and maybe you can look up to or aspire to be like another runner, but don’t be jealous or feel bad about your own abilities.
3. Some days will be better running days than others
I still have days when I got out to the park, plan to run 5, but am feeling crappy so I quit after only 1 or 2 miles. Then there have been days when I plan to run easy but end up feeling so good that I run hard and longer than I ever intended. I wish that every day I could feel unstoppable, but this is just not reality. Just like with everything in life, some days you will feel amazing on your run and other days you question why you even went out there in the first place. I try not to dwell too much on the bad days. Of course it’s normal to be pissed off at yourself for not completing your goal, but instead of getting angry, just remember there is always tomorrow.
4. Above all else, you have to enjoy it!
I have had many friends ask me why I started running and if I actually like to run. They wonder, how could you like something that makes you feel like dying?! Believe me, not every run am I like “this is so awesome! I feel so amazing, I can run 20 more miles!” In fact, most days are not like this. But, deep down I have learned to absolutely love running! I love being able to listen to my music or books without being interrupted, I love the feeling I get when I run faster than I ever thought I could, and I love how in shape I have gotten due to running. And I absolutely love running in races because it enables me to reconnect with my competitive side. In the beginning, it was not like this. I ran to prove to myself that I could, and because I was bored doing the elliptical at the gym. I wanted to give up many times because it was so difficult and made me so exhausted! But then I kept at it, and ran more and more and grew to enjoy it so much. Now, on the days I don’t run, I am definitely a little grumpier! I think that if you want to become a good runner and want to become a consistent runner, deep down you really need to love it. And just because you don’t love it from the start, doesn’t mean you can’t grow to really love the sport.