I’ve been hitting this new level of running happiness and joy over the last few weeks. This level that I have never really hit before, that is perpetuated by the success of each day before, and that is studded with moments of pure, endorphin releasing runner’s high.
But it’s not really as out of the blue as one would expect, or as unwarranted as you might think. In fact, quite the opposite. Because here’s the thing: I’ve been practicing running. I’ve been running for so many years and all of that adds up to so much practice time. You can call it experience, if you want – and I have certainly gained experiences – but at the end of the day, each mile, each run, each hard hauled effort has been another notch in the practice list.
Since the beginning of 2018, I’ve been putting in a conscious effort to push my running threshold. I can run. And I can run for a long time, every day, twice a day if I need to. I can run hills and run long distances, go to the track and run on the trails. But that’s different than training, and that’s different than pushing and that’s different than demanding more of myself and reaching levels I know I am capable of.
I have always run because I love it. And it is the best part of my day to go out and pound the pavement, having that time to myself, and those hours of pure, uninterrupted bliss.
Running is a practice. It’s a progress. It’s a some days are good, some days are bad kind of thing. It’s something you can get better at and improve upon, but also something that will have set-backs and regression, long periods of “this sucks, and I hate this,” and a lot of moments where you wonder what you’re really doing anyway.
But like anything, it takes practice to get better and practicing makes you better. Get out there. Show up. Suck it up, put on a happy face and go get it done. Because some days that’s exactly what it takes.
We have to stop thinking of running as this thing that we can or can’t do; this thing that is like a tangible result. Running isn’t a thing that you do where you just hit a certain level and suddenly you tick the box and it’s done. Maybe for that day. But the next day you will have a really bad run. And then what?
And then you just practice more. You keep going, keep pushing, keep asking more of yourself. You keep building resilience, taking on hard things and pushing down more barriers. You get up and go to practice. Every single day.
- Just show up – Whether you are having a bad day, think it’s hard, it’s raining, or you feel like crap, show up anyway. Come to practice, do the thing, get it done. There is reward to those who persist to show up.
- Give it Value – The reason it’s easy for you to skip running (or working out, or Pilates class etc.), is because you don’t place enough personal value and priority on it. In your head, it is already something that is okay if it is missed, or it is okay if it is the first thing that gets cut when the day gets crazy. If you are in this practice, it actually needs to be the complete opposite – it needs to be the thing that you hold to a high enough status that it deserves an uninterrupted place on your calendar and schedule, and a something that is only skipped under the most extenuating circumstances. You are expecting a lot in terms of your results from running, so shouldn’t you be expecting the same in terms of your commitment to practicing running?
- Find the Why – On the days when it is really hard to get out of bed early and make your run happen, or the days when it is really hot or rainy or cold and you just dread the thought of going outside to run, something will have to pull you through. This is where you need to have a strong why behind why you’re doing what you’re doing. Simply saying “I’m going to start running,” with no real intention behind it in terms of why you are doing it, essentially gives you all the excuses you want, to quit or bail out. But when you have a deep underlying motive and a reason why you push through, it can make a huge difference in your success.
- Own it – You need to start owning your running, your run practice and the place you want it to have in your life. This means calling yourself out on the days when you know you are just slacking off, but also listening to your body and allowing yourself to rest. This means staying true to the commitment you make to yourself when you plan your training runs, or when you set a goal of a certain distance or PR. And it also means that you get back up and keep going when you have a bad day, a bad run, a bad race. This means embracing this idea that you are a runner. And that means you need to practice running.
Running is not meant to be easy, come quickly, or be a start and end game with a clear, definitive finish line. Instead, it is a practice; something that lets you grow and improve, acts as the catalyst for building resilience and mental toughness, and more than that acts as a teacher and a reminder of how tough and dedicated you really can be. You just have to practice.