17 Jan What I Learned Running 1000 Miles Last Year
I haven’t always been a runner, and I still don’t think of myself as an athlete. I was 26 years old (and 6 months postpartum) when I ran my first 5k, and I still find it hard to believe I’ve run two marathons.
So the fact that I ran over 1000 miles in a year sort of makes me giggle. But it’s also one of my greatest accomplishments.
You learn a lot about yourself (and life) any time you push yourself physically, and running many miles at a time definitely qualifies as pushing yourself physically. The fact that it’s a solitary sport also takes it to a different level. On training runs when you’re alone and just wanting to quit, you really learn what you’re made of and how much mental strength you have. Running, to me, is far more mental than physical.
So in 2017 as I ran 1003 miles, this is what I learned:
- You have to decide ahead of time that you’re going to run, no matter what. When the alarm goes off at 5 am or you realize you’ll be running when the heat index is over 100 degrees, it’s so easy to make excuses and talk yourself out of it. I’ve learned I have to eliminate the choice. If a run is scheduled, I run.
- The mind is what makes or breaks you. Sure, running is tough on your body, and there are definitely times when you have to listen to pain or injuries, but your brain will defeat you far quicker than your body will. I wish you could hear the way I talk to myself during tough runs. I tell myself things like, “Suck it up. Quit being a wimp. You can do anything for 30 more minutes. Think of all the people who wish they could be out here. If you could survive 2011, you can survive this run.” Whatever it takes.
- You will smell bad. So bad. There comes a point when your deodorant just can’t keep up (July in South Carolina) and this foul funk appears that cannot be washed out of your clothes. Throw them away and just buy more.
- It helps 1000% to have a goal. It might be a certain race, a new distance, or an improvement goal such as a faster pace. But knowing why you’re working so hard and having something to measure can keep you going when you grow weary. Think of the goal as a dangling carrot.
- People will think you’re crazy. There will be those who say, “I’m not running unless someone’s chasing me,” and they’ll make fun of the hours you devote to training. Don’t try to change their minds, and don’t get offended. Just know they don’t understand.
- Running does not allow you to eat whatever you want. You only burn around 100 calories a mile, and as your body becomes more efficient, you might burn even fewer. You don’t need to take in a huge number of calories in order to run. Sad, but true. (I gained weight training for my first marathon. I wrongly assumed I could eat whatever I wanted. Wrong.)
- Shoes and running gear are important. Pay a little more money to get better quality. You need everything you wear to fit properly, provide support where you need it, and be comfortable. There is nothing worse than going out for a long run and feeling something rubbing with every step.
- Chafing is real. (See previous lesson.) Here’s what you might not know about runners: we all fear taking a shower after a long run. Why, you ask? Because the water reveals where the chafing was. As soon as the water hits your skin in a chafed area, the burning you feel makes you scream. Literally. Buy yourself some anti-chafing cream and lather yourself in it before a run. And if you discover an item of clothing that rubs, just get rid of it. Trust me on this one.
- It’s important to be aware of where bathrooms are at all times. Running is well-known to do a number on your digestive tract, no pun intended, and it is a nightmare to need a bathroom and not know where a close one is. Always scout out your route.
- Running with a friend can be a life saver. I was able to do some of my longest runs this year with a friend who trained for some of the same races I did, and her company made all the difference. She pushed me, I pushed her, and we finished. (She was also the one who kept me from losing my mind when we realized around mile 15 that our marathon had been measured incorrectly. It was too long. She kept me from quitting. And killing someone.)
- You are capable of so much more than you give yourself credit for. Listen. We are all horribly talented at underestimating ourselves. We assume the worst, settle for the least, and accept the past of least resistance. But we are strong and capable and worthy of pushing ourselves. What I’ve learned from running is that we are always able to take one more step. Always. We can’t try to run the whole race at once, but as my running buddy told me, we have to run the mile we’re in. And that, perhaps, is the greatest lesson of all.