Updated: Apr 18
While running can be a component of life, a hobby or a choice of lifestyle, this sport goes way beyond that: running has taught me so much about myself and, most importantly, extraordinary valuable lessons I can apply to my life.
Just this morning I had one of my thoughest runs ever. Not the farthest, the hardest! But I know, as a fact, it is partly my fault. Simply because lately I've been making some unwise choices when it comes to running. I am well aware of the fact that to run longer miles it is important to train properly and to build up volume during the week and I haven't done so. Since currently I am not training for any specific races I'm not following any specific plans and that is the reason I am, knowinly, messing up. To make matters even worse, that hasn't stopped me from making mistakes. Let's hope today's experience helps me to wise up a bit...
Today's Pre-Run Picture.
Last week I was very excited about the fact that after an entire week and a half without running, due to a cold, I was able to accomplish eight miles with no injuries or pain. In the back of my head, however, I knew I shouldn't be feeling so positive that quickly. 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. Besides that, at mile one I was already feeling my left calf, which had been bothering me since the previous two short runs I had during 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 bridge?"
"Nope! We are doing this. Let's go!"
I know for a non-runner that sounds like a very stupid idea. In fact, it is in some ways. Maybe it is all the way around... Who knows? Who is to judge, after all!? ... But let's think about the fact that many times in life, even though we know better, we keep making the same mistakes. 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 at the end things will work out! Good news is, sometimes we turn out to be we right. On the other hand, the bad news is: there's the other percentage of it when 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. In my case, I am a firm believer that it is more valuable to give it a chance and try other than sitting in inertia instead and never finding 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 as well and I still had over six miles to go, plus I had to go up the Bridge once again on the way back. I was sore in both legs. I couldn't rely in one to give the other leg a break. They both hurt. Next, I started to wonder if I was going to be able to finish my run. But neither my pain, nor my thoughts made me want to quit or even slowed me down. You know why? Because one thing running has taught me it is how important it is to have goals and to give our best to accomplish them. With life it shouldn't be any different.
How often have we had such hard times and we kept focusing on the issues instead of looking at the bigger picture? Sometimes while inside the storm we forget to concentrate on our main purpose; our targets in life. Even worse, sadly enough no matter how old we are, some of us have never figured out any of them. This sport teaches you, no matter what, that the reason you got started at the first place is greater than any difficulty you encounter along the way. You gotta be strong. You gotta be persistent. You need to find strength within and keep moving on! With 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 to all the way down to my foot. I had, for a second, to restrict my right leg from touching the ground. It wasn't for my best interest to do so, but at that point I just wanted to make sure I could reach as far as I could running before the pain started to get so severe that I would have to start to walk. Today was the kind of the day in which I was right about everything: I was right about the fact this wasn't going to be a good run. But I also was right when I decided to give it a chance and at least try. At the end, with all the difficulties I was able to run all my ten miles, even though at mile nine I was pretty much pulling my leg...
Today's Post-Run Picture
As I sit here right now, writing this post while icing my knee, I can't help but keep thinking about how many runners training for the marathon we encounter along the way that just refuse to quit, no matter how much pain they feel. And why is that? Not because they are stubborn. They are - I guess it is a prerequisit for becoming a runner - but there's much more to it: they have a goal and they have worked hard to get where they are and they just refuse to give up that easily! They have learned how strong their body is and they 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 in fact you know that is not true. When you become a runner, you also 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 also gives us confidence. I noticed a huge change in my own behavior after I became a runner. Before, when I got hurt, I would make a big deal out of it and I would sit around the house with a sad face. Now, for countless times while running I was able to overcome so many sores, pains and challenges. All 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 over. While those milliseconds passed, I started to see everything in slow motion. As I started to prepare myself to fall down, I kept thinking to myself:
"Sh..t! If I fall down I will mess up my knee, I won't be able to run for a while and to top that I will rip off 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 towards 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 I kept on running. At a point, I noticed there was a little bit of blood on my arm, but I didn't mind it. What mattered the most was the fact that I had to finish 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 will need to treat it later on.
Ice bath after a long distance run. It is a method of recovery based on emerging the lower half of the body in ice cold water to speed the recovery and reduce inflammation in the legs.
Now, 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 is at stake and plays the big role: that's what makes the difference.
The first time I ever ran 10 miles.
And here it is one of the most important things I've learned while running: 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 you peace of mind. It makes us aware of the fact that other's are watching out for us and they will be there in case we need them. That applies to many other sports as well. Just recently, a fellow runner had an accident while ridding her bike. She shared with one of my running partners that some guy came out of nowhere, grabbed her hand and started to talk to her and helped her while she was on the ground.
Sometimes we are even able to help each other involuntarily, just like this old memory I had today while going up the bridge. It happened a couple of years ago when I was training for my first half marathon. The winds were over 26MPH. God knows how many times I've gone up that bridge telling myself repeatedly not to quit before reaching its highest point. Thankfully, so far I was able to 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 against my body made me think about the hardest moments of my life and how I had to fight strongly against the things life was bringing my way, instead of allowing myself to be pushed down by it. With in mind that when life hits me hard, the only choice I have is to hit it even harder, I sped up. I kept going up with the goal of reaching a fellow runner way ahead of me and try to finish the climb along with him. As I started running next to him he acknowledged my presence and we ran even faster, together, towards the top of the bridge. I was literally drooling, but we made it! Heading back was a way easier climb since the wind was in our favor pushing us up.
Later on, 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 team work!
To me, that is a perfect example and one of the greatest analogies I can make in comparison to life: at times, our paths become very difficult to thrive on, but God puts the right people in our lives to help us to get throughout those difficult circumstances. Sometimes, we refuse to open up to friends, seek help and to share what we are feeling, with the thought in mind that it is pointless. But, apart of the fact that some people are very private, I believe that conception is mistaken simply because when we have real friends by our side, we don't need to go through it all by ourselves. We might try to do it alone, but we don't have to. After all, together we are stronger!