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Where Life and Running Interconnect

Updated: Oct 29, 2020

While running can be an integral component of life, a hobby, or a lifestyle choice, the sport goes way beyond that. Running has taught me so much about myself and, most importantly, extraordinary valuable life lessons.

Just this morning I had one of my toughest runs ever. Not the farthest, the hardest! But I know it is partly my fault simply because, lately, I've been making some unwise choices when running. I am well aware that to run longer miles it is important to train properly and to increase my distance during the week, and I haven't done so. Since I am not currently training for a race, I'm not following any specific plans and that is why I’m messing up. Let's hope today's experience helps me to wise up a bit . . .

Today's pre-run picture

Last week I was very excited that after an entire week and a half without running due to a cold, I was able to run eight miles with no injuries or pain. In the back of my head, however, I knew I shouldn't be feeling that positive so soon. Unfortunately, I was right about that!

Today, my goal was to run ten miles. As soon as I started running, I had a feeling it wasn't going to be a good run. At mile one I was already feeling my left calf, which had bothered me on the two short runs earlier in the week.

"Girl, this is not good. I am feeling my calf a lot! It has been bothering me for a while now," I complained to my running mate during our water break right before heading up the bridge.
"Do you want to head back instead of doing the bridge?"
"Nope! We are doing this. Let's go!"

I know for a non-runner that sounds like a very stupid idea. In some ways, it was. But many times in life, we make the same mistakes even though we know better. While we feel stupid for insisting, there's also another side we need to take into consideration: we do it because we might just be really dumb or . . . because deep in our hearts we believe that things will work out in the end! The good news is, sometimes we turn out to be right. On the other hand, the bad news is sometimes we are not.

But in reality, it is a matter of give and take. Try and fail. And we can't blame ourselves for wanting to try. I am a firm believer that it is better to take a chance than sit inert and never find out what the outcome would have been.

Long story short: when I started going up the Rickenbacker Causeway, also known as the Key Biscayne Bridge, against the 21-mph winds, my right knee started to hurt. I still had over six miles to go and I had to go up the bridge on the way back. Both legs were sore; I couldn't rely on one to give the other a break. Then I started to wonder if I was going to be able to finish my run. But neither my pain nor those thoughts made me want to quit or even slowed me down. You know why? Because one of the things running has taught me is how important it is to have goals and to do our best to accomplish them. It shouldn't be any different with life.

How often have we had hard times and kept focusing on the issue instead of looking at the bigger picture? Sometimes, while inside the storm, we forget to concentrate on our main purpose—our goals in life. Even worse, no matter how old we are, some of us haven’t figured out any of them. This sport teaches you that no matter the reason you started running in the first place, it is greater than any difficulty you encounter along the way. You gotta be strong. You gotta be persistent. You gotta find strength within and keep moving on! Life is the same way.

I did, in fact, have to stop a couple of times to stretch both legs to ease the pain a bit. When heading down the bridge on the way back, I was going so fast and the impact was so great that I felt a lot of pain from my knee almost down to my foot. For a second, I had to restrict my right leg from touching the ground. It wasn't in my best interest to do so, but I just wanted to make sure I could get as far as I could running before the pain became so severe that I would have to walk. Today was the kind of day I was right about everything: I was right that this wasn't going to be a good run. But I also was right when I decided to at least try. In the end, I was able to run all ten miles, even though at mile nine I was pretty much pulling my leg along.

Today's post-run picture

As I sit here writing this post while icing my knee, I can't help but think about how many runners training for marathons just refuse to quit, no matter how much pain they feel. And why is that? Not because they are stubborn. Well, they are, I guess it is a prerequisite for becoming a runner—but there's much more to it: they have a goal and have worked hard to get where they are and they just refuse to give up easily! They have learned how strong their body is and have a lot of self-confidence.

They also know quitting is going to make them feel like they failed, and there's no worse feeling than spending the rest of the day listening to your own brain telling you that you suck. When you become a runner, you learn that the brain is almost like a separate compartment of your body; it has its own mind and opinions. Sometimes all we gotta do it is to tell it to shut up before, during, or even after a run.

Running empowers us. It not only makes us feel good about ourselves, but it gives us confidence. I noticed a huge change in my own behavior after I became a runner. Before, I would make a big deal out of it when I got hurt, and I would sit around the house with a sad face. Now, I am able to overcome so many sores, pains, and challenges while running. That is because I know that they are just a small part of something greater. Not long ago while running short miles, my running mate accidentally tripped me. While those milliseconds passed, I started to see everything in slow motion. As I started to fall, I kept thinking:

"Sh*t! If I fall down, I will mess up my knee, won't be able to run for a while, and to top that, I will rip my compression pants. They are expensive! I gotta figure something out!"

So, as I was falling and placing my hands ahead of me to reduce the impact, I realized there was a wire fence right next to us, so I kept stepping toward it and threw myself against it. I stretched my arm, but I didn't stop running. Quickly, I was able to put myself together and kept on running. At a point, I noticed there was a little bit of blood on my arm, but I didn't mind. What mattered the most was finishing my miles! See the difference? When we learn we can endure any type of pain or discomfort, we know that at the end we will be fine, even if sometimes that means we need to treat it later on.

Why should it be any different when it comes to life? Sometimes we complain, but the toughest moments we encounter along the way are the ones that teach us the most valuable lessons. No matter how big the problem or the issue is, our mindset is what plays the biggest role: that's what makes the difference.

The first time I ever ran ten miles.

And one of the most important things I've learned while running is humility. No matter how awesome of a runner you are, eventually, you will need others. We all have bad days. We all have bad runs. That's what friends and fellow runners are for; being part of a running club or a community gives us peace of mind. Others are watching out for us and they will be there in case we need them. That applies to other sports as well. Just recently, a fellow runner had an accident while riding her bike. Some guy came out of nowhere, grabbed her hand, started to talk to her, and helped her while she was on the ground.

Sometimes, we are even able to help each other unknowingly. A couple of years ago when I was training for my first half marathon, the winds were over 26 mph. God knows how many times I've gone up that bridge telling myself repeatedly not to quit before reaching its highest point. I had never quit, but that day I came very close to doing so. The force of the wind was so strong I was practically bending myself. I kept thinking that if I slowed down, the wind was going to make me stop running. The strength of the wind hitting my body made me think about the hardest moments of my life and how I had to fight them instead of allowing myself to be pushed down. When life hits me hard, the only choice I have is to hit it even harder. I sped up. I kept going with the goal of catching up to a fellow runner way ahead of me and to finish the climb along with him. As I started running next to him, he acknowledged my presence and we ran even faster, together, toward the top of the bridge. I was literally drooling, but I made it! Heading back was a way easier climb since the wind was in our favor pushing us on.

Later, as we finished our miles, he came up to me and thanked me for going up the bridge with him:

"You know, Nanda, right before I saw you next to me, I was ready to start walking. But then I saw you and I kept going. That bridge was brutal today. Thank you! Great teamwork!"

To me, that is a perfect example and one of the greatest analogies I can make: at times in life, our paths become very difficult, but God puts the right people in our lives to help us to get through those difficult circumstances. Sometimes, we refuse to open up to friends, seek help, and share what we are feeling, thinking it is pointless. But, apart from the fact that some people are very private, I believe that idea is mistaken; when we have real friends by our side, we don't need to go through any all by ourselves. We might try to do it alone, but we don't have to. After all, together we are stronger!

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