Haven’t we all seen that runner who wears a T-shirt that says “Running Sucks”? If running sucks, why are we doing it? At first, the contradiction was baffling, but after nearly eight years of running, I now understand this contradiction. Running for me has been a roller coaster journey of mixed emotions.
Non-runners frequently ask me why I like to run, in their “you must be crazy” tone of voice. My answer to their question continues to change with each passing year.
Initially, my reasons for running had little to do with the actual activity. I’d recently moved to Texas, and I was looking for ways to make friends and keep my life long battle with weight at bay. I’d spent years running to nowhere on a treadmill and lifting weights inside a dreary gym.
Now, living in sunny Texas, I couldn’t wait to get outside and explore nature in the warm sunshine. It was time for this little hamster to get off her wheel and enjoy the big beautiful world. So, I joined a small women’s running group.
My initial goals for running were simple and successful—to make friends, burn calories, and enjoy the sunshine! Little did I know, the benefits of running would extend far beyond my expectations.
Yes, I made friends and burned calories, but now what? Why should I continue to run when “running sucks”?! The first year was challenging and full of aches and pains as my body and mind adjusted to the new activity.
Running on a treadmill in a climate-controlled building is very different than running on uneven trails and hard concrete in the Texas heat and humidity. Usually, the last mile of 5k races were filled with pessimistic thoughts as I desperately wished to be at the finish line, my running hell over. My new friends encouraged and motivated me to keep going—thank goodness for them!
As the months and years rolled by, something exciting started to happen. My body adapted, I got faster, optimism increased, and my sincere desire to run exploded! There’s something truly magical that happens when you realize you can do more than you thought you could.
My 12-minute mile turned into an 11-minute mile, then into a 10, 9, and 8. Now my personal records for speed are measured by seconds, not minutes, but the transformation in my brain has been my most significant personal record.
Working hard, pressing forward, and not giving up in the face of difficulties, pain, and fear led me to increased confidence and personal victories, and this revelation translated into other areas of my life.
I started trying things I’d previously thought were out of my reach. My excuses for not trying slowly turned into baby steps, and those baby steps grew into accomplishments. Could this aging lady in her 40s accomplish more things such as full-weight pull-ups and 200+ pound-deadlifts? Turns out yes, I can! I obtained my certifications as a personal trainer and running coach. I sought out opportunities to increase my education, accepted new challenges, and long story short, I started RunPups. I’ve always had entrepreneurial aspirations, but it took running to unlock my potential, increase my confidence, and knock down those pesky excuses that accompany fear.
Today, I still run to challenge my potential, but I’ve added more reasons why I run to my list. Now that I enjoy running with my dog, I feel responsible for her health and happiness. Not only does my cattle dog Bailey LOVE to run, I think it’s vital to her overall well-being to release all her pent-up energy.
I’ve also discovered that running improves my performance at work. Too often, I’ve battled thoughts of skipping a run because I’m too busy with RunPups. The reality is that my to-do list will never disappear. There will always be another blog to write, order to fill, or project to complete. Forcing myself to sit in my office until the problem is solved or the writer’s block has passed is counterproductive.
I started to notice my best ideas and solutions to problems would suddenly surface while my mind was free and aimlessly wandering during a run. A casual run without pressure or expectations always seems to unlock my creativity. It’s not uncommon for me to stop along the trail and make a quick voice memo to record my thoughts.
When I return to my office, I typically come back energized and ready to put my thoughts into action. These moments remind me that time spent running is not taking away from my work but clearly making me more productive, efficient, and ultimately happy!
Running improved me as a person more than as a runner. I’m still not the fastest or most technically sound runner, although I continue to try to be. Running changes your brain if you give it the chance. I proved to my insecure self that I’m capable of more than I allowed myself to believe. I proved that trying, failing, and trying again will eventually lead to a new outlook and success.
Consciously or not, we spend too much time looking for validation and waiting for others to see our value, talents, and greatness. Running revealed my unknown potential to myself.
Don’t wait for others to discover your greatness! Find it yourself, and maybe, just maybe, running will be the catalyst for self-improvement like it was for me. Now and then, running still sucks (usually at the end of a half marathon in the rain), but not running sucks more! Now, when people ask why I run, I can confidently say, “I not only like to run, I need to run!”
Did running uncover a life lesson you never expected? Tell us your story in the comments below.
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