“I hate running.”
“I don’t understand why you like running. It’s so boring.”
“Did you take a jog today?”
These are some of the responses typical runners get when running comes up in conversation. I know this because you could say running is a big part of my life. I’m currently on a college cross country team, and I ran three seasons (including both cross country and track) in high school. I read running books and magazines and I’m obsessed with my team. Most of all, though, I’m obsessed with running because it has something to teach me every day, so that’s why everything I need to know I learned from running.
1. There’s nothing wrong with a little superstition.
Whether it’s a lucky hair ribbon or a near religious pre-race routine, confidence comes from all different places. Establishing a good routine is an effective way to prepare for stressful or high-stakes situations because they make us comfortable and confident, both in running and in other situations like work, school, etc.
2. A good pair of shoes can change your life.
The story of Cinderella got at least one thing right — the right running shoes can carry you miles from home and take you right back. Those miles can provide fitness, friends, confidence and life lessons. Believe in them.
3. The clock is your best friend and your biggest rival. Deal with it.
I know time is a human convention and all that, but it’s real and we have to deal with it. Running has taught me not to waste time, but I’ve also learned that time spent exploring a new trail with my best friend or taking a day off from running isn’t necessarily a waste. Spending time well is an art, and running makes me conscious of how I do it and how I can do it better.
4. Running isn’t the same as running away.
Running is productive. When things get complicated or annoying or whatever, running is a place to sort out your thoughts and brainstorm questions and answers. Sometimes it’s a place to remember and sometimes it’s a place to forget. It can be alone time or friend time. Distractions aren’t always a bad thing — we need them so our heads don’t explode, actually, and running can be that productive distraction.
5. Role models are out there.
People complain that movie stars and professional athletes aren’t great role models, so there must be a lack of role models. Professional runners are often little-known public figures, but they’re still awesome. Shalane Flanagan is strong, Kara Goucher is brave, Phoebe Wright is witty, Ryan Hall is confident and Meb Keflezighi won Boston (enough said). They’re always providing inspirational Tweets, personal blog posts and insightful views. Generally, they’re not in it for the money or the glamour (if they were, they’d be disappointed quite often I bet), and they run hills and get injured and lose toenails like the rest of us.
6. There’s nothing wrong with falling on your face.
Literally and figuratively. I’ve fallen on my face more times than I can count — sometimes mud, roots, ice and feet just get in the way. But I’ve also had far more embarrassing races and workouts that made me want to cry harder and hide longer. Facing them, though, taught me how to get over embarrassing moments and figure out why they happened. Falling down is an opportunity to get back up and it’s proof that you took a risk. Falling down in running teaches us that it’s OK to fall down other places, too. Just look at Lolo Jones, who didn’t stop being fabulous when she fell in an Olympic hurdle race in Beijing.
7. Excellence is a habit.
This one was actually Aristotle a long time ago, but I would never have believed it or accepted it as part of my life if it weren’t for running. The philosopher believed that every time we make a good choice, we move toward being a better version of ourselves. In the same way, we become better runners — and better people — every time we make the kinds of choices that good runners make.