5 Life Changing Lessons Running Teaches Us

When I started running two years ago, I thought I was just going to literally put one foot in front of the other until I finished my run and that would be it. I wasn’t in any way prepared for the lessons I would learn through all of those miles.

Running has been an incredible teacher to me. I’ve learned so much about myself and about life in general because of it, but here are the five most important that I think we all come across as runners:

5. You Are Your Only Competition

I’m not a very competitive person, but when I hear other runners talking about PRs or what pace they hold on a “comfortable” run, I can get really hard on myself for not matching their standards. Think about that objectively for a minute. That is SO stupid! Their standards are exactly that…THEIRS, not mine! When you focus on your own goals and time and being a better runner than you were yesterday, that is when you’re going to thrive.

4. The First Step is the Hardest

This is a lesson you’ll learn very quickly when you start running. It also applies to anything in life. Deciding you’re going to do something that scares you and taking that first step is so difficult in the beginning. But after the first step comes the second, and so on. With that comes a higher threshold of uncertainty.

3. Consistency is Key

If you kind of want something, you’ll only kind of get the results you want. With running, and most things in life, you need to be consistent to see results. Sure, you can probably get through a half marathon if you run here or there a couple of times a week, but without consistency you will NEVER get better, faster or stronger.

2. Anything Worthwhile in Life Requires the Extra Mile

We’re all humans. We get tired and we feel defeated at times. I’m more familiar with this feeling than you could possibly understand, but running has taught me better than anything that if I can talk myself through running just one more mile, I can talk myself through running another. That slowly spilled over into other areas of my life like school, work and relationships and I’ve accomplished more than I thought I could. If you want something great, you have to be willing to go farther than you dreamed of for it.

1. You Are Stronger Than You Know

Never in my entire life would I have guessed that I would be able to run even one mile, forget a half marathon! But here I am, training for my sixth half marathon. I didn’t acknowledge my strength in any areas of my life until after I had been running for a year, which was only last winter when I was 23. How insane is it that it took 23 years for me to allow myself to acknowledge my strength? Test your limits and let your physical strength empower your emotional strength. You have no idea what you’re capable of.

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Forever one of my favorite pictures! The happiest faces after the hardest race of our lives!

Why Do We Struggle to Call Ourselves Runners?

Why would you tirelessly put in the effort and hard work into running consistently and deprive yourself of identifying as a runner? There are no rules to running! You don’t have to be great at it to call yourself a runner.

I totally get not wanting to call yourself a runner when you first start. It’s still new and you don’t really know where you stand with it. I

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refused to call myself a runner when I was at the starting line of my first half marathon, even though I had just run 5 days a week for 12 weeks straight, and when I crossed the finish line I still didn’t want to call myself a runner. I knew I really enjoyed running and it did so much for me physically and emotionally, but I wasn’t sure I would remain dedicated once I finished my race.

Well, it’s been two years since I crossed that first finish line and here I am still running. The first time I called myself a runner was in my head while I was running my third half marathon last May. I was on mile 11, so incredibly miserable and I thought “I’ve been running for a year and a half and I just ran up treacherous hills for six miles in the rain and I want to quit but I’m still going. I’m a runner.”

I think many of the reasons why I didn’t call myself a runner for so long are the same reasons why so many other runners struggle with it as well.

“But I’m not an athlete!”

Not having an athletic background is probably the most intimidating thing ever when you decide to start running. It still kind of lingers in the back of my mind sometimes when I’m at the gym or even at a starting line.

When I was in the midst of my training for my first half marathon, everyone at my job knew about it because someone would always see me outside running. They started identifying me as a runner simply because they saw my consistency in it. They didn’t think about how long I’d been doing it or how fast or slow I was. They definitely didn’t think about me hiding in the bathroom during gym class. The longer I ran the more I realized I wasn’t an impostor, and neither are you. If we’re putting the time, miles, dedication and hard work into running we deserve to identify ourselves as runners.

I think not being athletic makes you even braver for deciding to run. Putting one foot in front of the other when you have no idea what you’re doing or if you can even do it is the gutsiest and most awesome thing in the world to me. Stop selling yourself short!

“I don’t look like a runner, so I can’t call myself one.”

Okay. Put yourself at the starting line at any race and you’ll realize whatever you think the stereotypical runner’s body is doesn’t actually exist. There are people of all shapes and sizes making it across the finish line, not one of them looking identical to the other. The only runner’s body that I’m familiar with is the one that’s strong enough to finish a run. Take the focus off of what your body looks like and focus on what your body can physically do.

“I’m not a real runner because I’m slow.”

I’m calling myself out with this one. I’m not fast by any means. I’ve worked up to being comfortable holding any where from a 10:54 to 10:00 pace. That’s not the point though. Running is a part of my routine and it’s a big part of who I am. You don’t need to be an elite runner to call yourself a runner. You just have to be consistent.

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Here’s me last week being a runner and taking a sweaty selfie after holding race day pace for five miles.

I don’t care how fast or how slow you run, what you look like or how long you’ve been running.

If you have an athletic background and now you run, you’re a runner. If you grew up getting hit in the face with a dodge ball in gym class like me but now you run…guess what? You’re a runner. If you’re 110 pounds with a six pack and you run, you’re a runner. If you’re 230 pounds and can’t recall ever having a flat stomach but you’re still out there running, you’re a runner. If it takes you five minutes to run a mile, congrats! You’re a runner. If it takes you 20 minutes to run a mile but you’re out there doing it all the time, you’re still a runner.

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Why Running Together Makes Me Stronger

You know what makes half marathons, or just running in general, more fun?

A little buddy to run with! This one is mine and I shouldn’t call her my little buddy, she’s definitely five inches taller than me. I actually prefer to call her my sole sister (get it?). Her name is Caitlyn and she’s been one of my closest friends for five years now and we’ve run four half marathons together.

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High spirits! This was mile 4 and we definitely weren’t sporting the same smiles at mile 10, but high spirits!

I ran my first half marathon by myself, and at the time I was doubling as a hostess at a sports grill (which is ironic because I know NOTHING about sports) and a camp counselor at the Y, so I really appreciated the alone time I had when I was running. I loved my campers but it was great not having five-year-olds hanging off of my limbs for a few miles. That being said, I won’t lie and say I never wished that I had someone running with me on the really long runs or those days I really didn’t want to lace up my shoes and get out there.

After crossing the finish line at my first race, I knew this was something I wanted to keep doing for as long as my body allowed me to. I looked into half marathons in New Jersey that I could run when I moved back for school and Caitlyn, who had never run a half marathon before, happily jumped on the bandwagon with me. Soon enough we were signed up for Morristown’s Halloween half marathon!

When race day finally arrived, the temperature dropped to 30 degrees and the 45 minutes we spent at the starting line waiting for the race to start (spirits high, of course!) still makes my bones shiver.

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Yeah…we ran the entire race this bundled up. It was THAT cold!

It wasn’t until we were closing in on mile 10 that I realized how greater this experience was compared to my first race and it was all because I had my friend running next to (and sometimes ahead of) me, and thank goodness for that! Caitlyn and I tend to have horrible luck with weather on race days. The second half marathon we ran together was the following May in Fort Lett and it was cold and rainy and we were pissed even before the race started. I only got more pissed as the miles went on because all I could focus on was the water sloshing around in my shoes with every step I took. Every. Single. Step. For. 13.1 Miles.

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Caitlyn and I walking to the starting line VERY apprehensively as it starts to rain.

I know for a fact I totally would have bailed on this race if someone else weren’t running it with me. Who wants to run six and a half miles up crazy cliffs in the rain and then slip and slide your way back down? I certainly didn’t and I’m pretty sure Caitlyn didn’t want to either, but we showed up and pushed our way through. Mother Nature finally backed off around mile 11 and it stopped raining. Coincidentally so did our (read: my) bitching.

The finish line was in sight and I swear I nearly cried tears of joy. I could NOT wait for this race to be over and to take my water-filled shoes and wet socks off. This is still the most miserable I have ever been during a run, but somehow we broke a personal record (PR) and finished in 2 hours and 24 minutes (our new PR is 2 hours and 20 minutes). Something about being miserable, cold and wet must have made us haul ass.

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We have never looked so happy to cross a finish line!

If your excuse to not sign up for a half marathon is that you don’t know if you’ll be able to stick to it, get someone to do it with you! Running buddies are the greatest and change the course of your race, literally and figuratively. They make the 5 a.m. wake up calls on race day slightly tolerable, make sure you finish that long training run, get pumped with you at the starting line (nothing pumps Caitlyn and I up like blasting Hamilton and singing at the top of our lungs in the car), bitch with you at mile 11 and celebrate with you at the finish line. They certainly don’t judge you for the insane amount of food you inhale after the race either because they’re right there demolishing just as many calories with you!

Most importantly, they take the attention off of you from time to time because they need cheering on too. You’ll carry each other through the race, and that’s the best part for me.

So stop reading this and go find yourself a running buddy! They don’t have to already be a runner. If you can be as persuasive as I was, you’ll be able to convince someone to take this journey with you. They just won’t be as cute as my running buddy. Sorry!

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram for more of my running adventures!

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The best part of being running buddies? Mid-race sweaty selfies with the Statue of Liberty, of course!