What Medals and Miles Will Teach You

When I started running, I remember my friends tracking numbers. Things like pace, distance, miles over the year. I remember thinking 300 miles seemed like so many to run over the course of one year. Then I started goal setting. Apps on the smartphone like MapMyRun and RunTracker got the job done, and eventually I got a GPS watch to track my stats.

In 2011, I logged 188 miles. 2012 saw 326 miles and in 2013 I eeked out 170 miles. (Thank you deployment!) Last year I made the goal of 500 and as of right now, 2015 mileage sits at 507. These miles seem insane to me on paper and goal setting is really only one tiny fraction of what running has given me.

Not only have there been running challenges, laps on tracks, fartleks, races, tempo runs, trail races, medals earned, bib numbers pinned, traveling runs, sprained ankles, pain, victory, sprints, nausea, euphoria and more, but there has also been therapy, solace, and peace in these miles.

Running is transformative. It changes who you are and who you think you can become. It changes your mood. It takes the impossible and makes it reality. It offers comfort in the uncomfortable. It’s an escape, if only for the duration of the run. It forces you to be in the moment. Every single time you run, you return better for having done so. Running has brought self confidence. Running will bring out a mental strength you had no idea you possessed.

It will shock you. 

It will shock you just how difficult it can be. It will hurt. It will ache. In the beginning for me there was a reckoning of just how far I’d let my physical fitness go. I had to learn to focus on each little accomplishment because the road ahead seemed just too damn long. Sometimes those little accomplishments are just making it around the block. There are shin splints and cramps and side stitches. Then we learn to move past the physical pain. We discover work arounds to the pain and the inconvenience. Running is a fantastic metaphor for emotional pain. That sometimes the only way around the pain is through it.

It will challenge you.

When you stick with it, it becomes impossible not to chase after that next thing. That faster pace, that longer distance, the next goal. Running will whisper in your ear, “That was awesome. Can you come just a little bit farther? What about this distance? How much do you love me? Wanna go a little faster?” Running will taunt you. “Betcha can’t beat your last time…”

It will change you.

Running will restore your belief in the impossible. Distances or paces just out of reach will become your new reality as you set your sight on the next goal. Striving for improvement will bleed over into every other facet of your life. Running just does that. It changes who you are; physically, mentally and emotionally.

What has running taught you?

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