Running Has Taught Me…

On December 31, 2013 I conducted an inventory of my life during the previous year. In doing so, I decided that among other things, I would resolve to run 1500 miles during calendar year 2014.

On August 26, 2014, while out on a run, I stumbled (ok the dog tripped me) and I fractured my shoulder, among other things including my pride. I was on my 862nd mile for the year, and in training to complete my first marathon. I thought I was going to make it. Then as unexpectedly and with the surprising familiarity of electrical power going out in a storm, the routine comfort of my next long run ended with a thud.

Almost a month has passed since I unlaced my running shoes last. A long month of frustration, anger, self pity, sitting around, and baking. I have thought about running every day, almost every minute since. I’ve learned a lot from learning to run. Like they say, you don’t grow from doing what you already know, you grow from learning and doing new things.

This is what I’ve learned from running.

1. I learned that no one can do anything for you.

I have been blessed with a great paying job. Often, when I was busy, or otherwise indisposed, or I’ll admit it, just plain lazy, I would pay someone to do something for me. I could obviously never pay anyone to run for me, because it simply doesn’t work that way. More importantly, I have come to understand that to earn the “experience” of doing something, you actually have to do it. I can pay someone to bake a cake for me, but getting a cake in this manner has not afforded me the experience of baking a cake myself. I can read travel books all I want, its not the same experience as going myself.

Sounds simple, I know. But then isn’t that how it is about truth, once it is revealed, it seems simple…like common sense. So running has taught me that what my body feels, my mind thinks and my eyes see during and after a run are only mine to enjoy no one else can tell me about it. I often tell people that they should run, and how great it is. They scoff like I used to scoff. Further proof that no amount of desire on my part, will provide them what only they can experience by doing. Only I can get through this injury, no one else can do it for me.

2. I learned to spit.

Most of my friends will tell you, that while I am not a that delicate, I am kinda prissy. Please don’t burp in my presence. Please excuse yourself to blow your nose. Please do not scratch your private body parts, in public. I do not want to hear about your bathroom rituals and I don’t want to smell any of your bodily functions. Now don’t get me wrong. Does a (Cal) bear poop in the woods? Only when she is in the wilderness, and even then, I follow the rules. Learning to backpack is another of those comfort zone expanders.

When I first started running, I carried tissue (and I still do). One day, I was joined by my niece / God child. “Nina”, she said, “get ahead of me, I need to blow a snot rocket.”

What in the heck?

I just can’t do that, but I did learn to spit. Sometimes life is ugly, and you just have to accept it. It’s like pooping in the woods, you do it, cover it up and move on.

3. I learned that the best way to explore a new city is to run around its streets.

I enjoy travel, so I frequently choose half marathons that are in other states. I want to see as much as I can of this great nation, and running allows me see a city from a viewpoint that even that its own residents haven’t had. How many of us can say we’ve run over a major California interstate, through corn fields in Texas, among horses in Wyoming, or over bridges in Ohio? Picking up packets prior to race time allows some mingling among the locals as does the post race celebrations and the sharing of a beer and perhaps a breakfast burrito. The up close and personal look at a community brings us more in tune with the people who live there. In turn, we are better able to relate to each other.

4. I learned to trust that the running world is filled with good people.

I have had a number of conversations with complete strangers that I believe have nothing in common with me except running. Yet, after a few sentences we discover that we’ve been in the same places, or felt the same nerves or speak the same language. The kindness and understanding between runners is interesting, because running is such a solitary sport. Sure, we cam run with partners, but once you get in that groove, you are alone with your thoughts. Meeting new people and knowing that they are willing to help you should you need it, has been one of the best benefits of learning to run.

5. I have learned to be happy with who I am.

I learned that you don’t have to be the fastest, or the flashiest to be a good runner. I am very competitive, but somehow, knowing that it just doesn’t matter has freed me to enjoy myself, trust my body and only care how I do on any particular day. Don’t get me wrong, I care about doing well, but not at all costs. Maybe I am just getting old and have more sense. But, as a middle of the pack runner, I’ve heard the advice my ten year old neighbor told me a long long time ago when I voiced my jealousy over her Christmas gifts. “You should be happy with what you have been given.”

I am happy with what I’ve been given and who I am. I am sidelined for a while that is true, but what this injury has given me is the greater appreciation for what I already loved, and the time to reflect on the other blessings in my life.

Oh, and having resorted to a stationary bicycle for cardio upkeep, I now understand why bikers are so grumpy. Those seats hurt.

The times I’ve said, “It sucks to be me,” are usually the result of the times I’ve said, “Its great to be me.” I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Thanks for being my friends.


About Caro

I am a social worker by training and a peace officer by profession having worked with California’s delinquent youth and young adults for 28 years. I firmly believe that our development as humans depends on our environment and that sometimes we get stuck. As such, I write about those things we sometimes ignore or fail to see until we are forced to pay attention.
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