Running the Road to Greatness

Hope PassIt takes a special kind of person to set a goal that involves running 100 miles straight, starting at over 10,000 feet in elevation and following a trail that winds up and over passes and through forests, valleys and rivers. It takes someone who is strong, determined, motivated, disciplined and focused. It takes someone who can overcome physical challenges and mental barriers. It takes someone who has the will to run.

As a runner, I have met so many amazing people who have changed the way I view life. Runners are remarkable people on and off the trail (or road). I will even go so far as to give myself a little credit here. I used to be just okay and a somewhat decent person. Then I started running and I became more than just okay. It took time, lots of running and other changes in my life, but I am finally proud of who I am. Of course we all have things we can work on and I am definitely not perfect by any means. I always think about how I can better myself and I do struggle to not be so concerned with how others view me.

However, I can confidently say that I am strong, determined, motivated, disciplined and focused. These qualities do not just apply to my running. They apply to my life. They apply to how I work, take care of my family, handle problems and interact with others. I take a challenge and run with it (sometimes literally). I still get nervous about whether or not I am doing it right, but I have more confidence than I ever had before. When I make a mistake, I reflect and move on. If I fail, I make a promise to never quit and find another way to succeed.

The runners I know are awesome friends. Most of them share my values and outlook on life. Their arms are always wide open and their hearts are always warm. When they fall, they stand up, dust themselves off and move on at a faster pace. When you fall, they usually laugh at you first, but then they hold out their hand, pull you up and tell you to keep your ass moving.

Sometimes we miss a training run or don’t finish a race we start, but our heart is always set on achieving more and becoming a better person than who we were when we first started. It’s not about the amount of miles completed, but the quality of those miles completed. So, whether your goal is to run around the block without stopping or to run 100 miles, you are in the same state of mind. You are the person who is strong, determined, motivated, disciplined and focused.   It doesn’t take 100 miles to prove that, but it does take an inward glance, a desire to be something more and an acceptance that you will follow through no matter what and no matter how long it takes to get there.

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The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

The WORST marathon ever!  But I wouldn't have the memories of running with these great friends :).  At least we endured together.

The WORST marathon ever! But I wouldn’t have the memories of running with these great friends :). At least we endured together.

I always warn my clients:  “You will have good running days and bad running days.  The good running days keep you motivated.  The bad running days… well, they make you stronger.”  I don’t mention the ugly running days.  I don’t want to scare them off right away.

It doesn’t matter how long you have been running for, those bad days will always make an appearance when you least expect them to.  It might happen during a training run or it could possibly hit hard on race day.  My most recent bad day was during a trail half marathon.  I made a wrong turn.  I was so irritated for the remaining 9 miles that I nearly slowed down and said “forget this freakin’ half marathon!”  Yet, I didn’t.  I kept pushing myself like I normally would.  Maybe I have learned that bad days will happen and there isn’t much you can do but keep moving forward.  That is where the strength comes in.  You gain more with each bad run.

How about ugly run days?  Well, they are ugly.  These days you might need to stop because you can’t physically run any farther.  I will never forget my ugly day back in Jacksonville Beach about 2.5 years ago.  I was running a 10-miler with a friend.   I had some issues leading up to that run, but this particular run was a realization that something was terribly wrong.  Not too long after, a visit to the doctor revealed that I had a protruding disk pushing on a nerve.  It was causing severe pain any time I brought my leg forward.  Yep, I couldn’t even walk without the major OUCH factor.  Three months and 20 physical therapy visits later, I was finally able to start all over again.  Did that ugly experience make me mentally stronger?  Yes, it sure did!  It also made me smarter.  I started triathlon training so I could give my body a break from so much running.

Good days anyone?  Last weekend I ran an 18-miler alone at the beach.  I don’t know how many 18-milers I have completed in my life, but that was the best one thus far.  I had to wake up at 4:45 AM and it was still hot and humid, but there was something that was just working in my favor.  Maybe it was the sunrise at the beach or the peaceful feeling of being out and about during the early morning hours.  No complaints, I was definitely having a good running day.

There you have it.  Not all running days are going to be wonderful.  You might need to spend 10 minutes frantically searching for the nearest bathroom.  Or maybe a muscle starts to spasm and you have to walk all the way back to your house.  What about the time it started hailing and you had to run for cover in order to avoid being pummeled?  How about when a few rain showers turned into a squall?  Currently, I hear a lot of complaints about the heat.  If it isn’t the heat in the summer, then it is the snow and ice in the winter.  OMG, that run was all HILL!  Maybe you just didn’t eat enough and hit the WALL.  Yep, I have been there, done it all. The point is not to fret so much over the bad runs because there are plenty of good runs to go around.  Learn from the bad so you can fully enjoy the good.  Those good runs will be filled with “wow, I am FAST today” or “what a great way to release stress from a rough day at work” or “wow, this scenery is amazing.”  You will find inner peace on those good runs and feel like you are moving along at your full potential.  It may even seem EASY (is there such a word in running??).  Hold on to that moment so you can whip it out any time you need some extra motivation.

When you are in the middle of a bad run, don’t stop.  Keep going.  That is the only way you will get stronger.  Then, after your irritation has been calmed, you can laugh at your bad run and be grateful that it wasn’t ugly.  But, if you ever encounter an ugly run, know that those bad runs have made you a stronger person and you WILL prevail!

Sometimes you LOVE running and sometimes you HATE it.  It’s okay.  Running forgives and forgets.