Running lessons​

Over the past few years, I’ve had an on and off relationship with running. I’m not sure I’d go as far as saying “I’m a runner”, but I have run a few half marathons and had periods of time where I’d run at least 5 km a day. Over this time I’ve learnt a few things I didn’t expect when I started.

There’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path

Yes this is a quote from The Matrix and yes it’s a cliché, but neither of these things makes it any less true. I’ve always known if I really wanted to run 10km or even a marathon I could. Here’s the thing, knowing I could do these things didn’t change me, it didn’t challenge me, it didn’t add any real value to my life. In fact, all it really did was inadvertently stop me from doing things that make interesting people… well… interesting. Doing is where the value is, so go out and do.

It’s all in your head

Running is physically challenging, you can’t just get up in the morning and run a marathon (not well anyway), you have to train your body to meet the physical demands of a run. The aha moment for me was about my 3rd-4th run. About then I started thinking about not running. I started hearing my mind saying, “screw this”, “why bother”, “might as well stop”. Overcoming my own self-talk was 90% of the battle and it continues to be. The great thing about this is building mental toughness, persistence and grit have a far greater effect on everyday life than simply being fit. Staying mindful of your thoughts is the first step to overcoming them.

Goals matter

Without the right outcomes, there’s no purpose in an activity. This sort of calls back to the mental component of running. If I don’t give myself a ”why” it’s much harder to fight the voices of decent in my mind. Goals give me sort of physiological ammunition, so when I start to think of stopping, instead I can just smile and say to myself, “not today brain, today is for X”.

Marathon runner
Me about 100m away from completing my first big “race”

Balance is important

When I first started running I would go out every day and just try and smash it. I’d push myself hard and as a result, tire myself out. It wasn’t long before physical tiredness gets the better of mental will, and I stop running with the excuse, “I’m just not a runner”. As it turns out to find success I didn’t need to kill myself. What I needed to do was show up. Not every day is going to be your fastest, your longest, your best, but if you don’t show up you make certain it won’t be. This also applies to recovery and rest. Introduce some “nothing” into my day really helped me to learn to take time for nothing, clearing my head, refreshing my body, giving myself a chance to succeed.

Every day is its own challenge

After a few runs were behind me and I got comfortable in a “quick 5km”, running begins to feel mundane. Becoming a little less impressed with each run I needed to challenge myself again. For me, this was another aha moment. Greatness is all about raising the bar. It’s treating myself like a project, being mindful and working to become a better version of me. Yesterday’s challenge was for yesterday’s version of me. Greatness comes from how a behave here and now, not yesterday. Today is where greatness lives.