If you want to be successful, you must respect one rule: Never lie to yourself. Paulo Coelho
One of the greatest gifts running has given me is the ability to sift through the running lies my head, and others, try to tell me. Because the longer I run, the more my heart, legs, and mind know–what is true and what is false. When you aren’t sure of yourself, the lies feel like reality–it’s the stuff you wade through, as it tries to grab hold of you and stop you– from being the you who tries new things, the you who decides to take a risk and give it your all, the you who wants to put it all out there on the line.
Running one 100 mile race hardly makes me an expert at anything, but I learned some lessons along the way.
The 5 Running Lies You Should No Longer Believe:
You have to wait for the perfect time. There is a difference between holding off on a goal/dream because it’s not the right time for you and your family and waiting for the perfect time because you are simply afraid to take the leap. The latter always sound like excuses because they are. And there never is a perfect time.
Long distance running always means added weight gain for me, no matter what food choices I make. So after training for over 9 months and running my first two ultra marathons in 2014 I noticed my weight had gradually crept up on me. In January 2015 I decided to cut back on running to focus on strength training and weight loss. I told myself I wouldn’t sign up to run a 100 mile race until I lost 10 pounds.
And in my own head I heard how ridiculous that sounded. Holding myself back from chasing a dream because of 10 pounds?! How many times had I heard other people say they couldn’t start running until they lost 20 pounds–and I would try to convince them to just get started–even walking.
The more I cut back on running, the more I focused on my weight, the more out of balance my heart was. My heart yearned to be running long. I knew, deep down, waiting for the perfect time was just an excuse–I was afraid to run 100 miles. I wasn’t sure if I could do it. I was scared. Unsure of myself. I knew those were not good enough reasons to not try–the weight was just an excuse. In the end, my heart and legs carried me 100 miles–10 extra pounds didn’t matter. To think I could have missed out on a dream because of a number on a scale. An excuse.
There is never a perfect time. Do it anyway.
There is a right way. It’s human nature to compare. We hear that one running friend is signed up for a race every month and then you wonder if you should be racing more. Another running friend does strength training 4 times a week on top of her weekly runs and you look at your schedule wondering if you can fit in more workouts in your week. Another friend has a running coach while another follows an online training plan. You learn your friend’s sister goes to a running clinic to learn proper form. One runner swears by a certain brand of running clothes and another says you should avoid using the treadmill to be properly trained for a race.
While I try to run trails, many of my runs are either on pavement or on the treadmill because that is the stage of life I’m in right now–as a mother and a wife. Miles are miles.
Which way is the right way? All of them. None of them. It depends on the runner.
There isn’t a right way to run. There isn’t a right way to train. There isn’t a certain number of races you need to do or workouts you need to complete. Every one has found the way that works for them–and as runners we are happy to share our advice of what works–but ultimately it’s what works for us. It may not work for you.
Moms are often asked how they make the time to train. They’ll proudly declare: I wake up before the rest of the house, making sure to get my runs in before my family ever wakes up. I found that didn’t work for my family. My husband loves to sleep in–and if I was gone while the kids started to wake up, he wouldn’t be a happy, supportive, husband. So my long runs are scheduled after I get up with the kids, make them breakfast, give them cuddles…when my husband rolls out of be over an hour after we have already been awake–that’s when I head out for my run. He enjoys spending time with them while I’m out for my runs and I love that I got to see the kids and spend time with them in the morning. It works for us. But that may not work for you.
In running and life, what you do is what’s right for you and your family….from how you parent, whether you work or stay home, from your food choices, exercise habits, spiritual life, what activities you choose to do–try not to compare what you are doing to those around you. You run your race and they run theirs.
You aren’t a real runner. After I ran my first 50 mile ultra-marathon, I was telling a friend who asked about it what the experience was like for me. An acquaintance was listening in and after I paused in my excitement to share what running means to me, she stated matter-of-factly: The real ultra-runners are the ones who run 100 miles. I knew she was trying to put me in my place–to define what I was and what I wasn’t. But I knew she didn’t have the power to do that unless I let her.
Running has taught me the people who try to feed you the lies, are like the roots on the trail on my 100 mile race–they are the people who you need to step around, over, and away from–don’t engage them or try to convince them of anything. They are a test. Use them as a way to strengthen yourself, because when your day comes, there will be lots of tests–things that try to convince you that you can’t. Aren’t strong enough. Aren’t fast enough. Don’t have enough grit. But you do. And anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is trying to tell a story they don’t have the right to tell.
You are the only one who gets to tell your story.
I love to run. It is what’s on the inside that makes me a runner. You don’t need a lot of racing experience to be a runner. It doesn’t matter whether you run on the treadmill, the road or on trails. It doesn’t matter if you run with a running group or have a best running friend or if you run alone. Being a runner has nothing to do with how many races I complete in a year–or whether I race at all, what distances I choose to chase, what gear I use, it doesn’t matter what I look like on the outside, how fast I run, whether I choose to walk during a run–I’m a real runner whether I run 1 mile or 100 miles, a 7 minute mile or a 16 minute mile. And so are you.
Crossing the finish line will make you magnificent. When you sign up for a half marathon, marathon, 50k, 50 miler, 100 miler–you will start to hear a lot of: Wow! You are so inspiring! You are amazing! During my training runs I’d listen to one of my favorite Bon Iver songs on repeat and the line that struck me deeply was: …and at once I knew I was not magnificent. And it’s true. Because even though I was hearing from others how amazing I was, I knew what this training took–the sacrifices my family had to make for me, the cause I was running for and the people impacted by Alzheimer’s. Running, is, after all, just running.
And when I was in the midst of running my first 100 mile race–I got to see the pain and determination etched onto the faces of all the runners around me. I felt like I was looking into a mirror–seeing what I was feeling on the inside. When it got really hard, I remembered my friend’s words. A dear friend whose mother is fighting Alzheimer’s, which means my friend is fighting it too: You are doing this for me and my mom. What they are going through is hard. What my grandpa went through taking care of my grandma as she slipped away from us–that memory thief stealing her from us–that is hard. Running is no comparison. During that 100 mile race I knew all of us runners were just a bunch of ordinary people chasing a dream–all for different reasons–not one better than another. And when you cross the finish line the truth is, you realize how magnificent others are–the people who helped you, believed in you, prayed for you. The finish line was so much more than the single moment of completing a race.
And while I felt like I was doing something special and will treasure that experience forever, none of us are magnificent on our own. The course and its path is steady and sure–not trying to defeat you, but instead it encourages you to try. Stripped away from the lies, you can show up– vulnerable, real, and ready to show the ground underneath your feet what your heart is made of. When we start to let our egos get the best of us, we lose sight of why we ever started running in the first place.
Look at the world around you. Everyone is amazing in their own way and yet not one of us is any more special than the other person. From the person who runs ultra marathons to the man who stands on the street corner begging for money. I’m careful to teach this to my children–while I may think they are the most magnificent creatures ever to be born on this earth, I never want them to think they are the most magnificent creatures to ever be born on this earth. They know I think the are wonderful and amazing beings, but they also know I don’t think they are better than anyone else.
We are all magnificently not magnificent.
It should get easy. It’s easy for everyone else. During my first 50 mile race I was surrounded by people who were running the 100 miles option, runners who did multiple ultra marathons in a year, runners who had completed the course many times. I was doing my first ultra and it was half of what most of the other runners were racing that day. By mile 16 my legs were aching. By mile 27 I was in tears–not sure how I would ever get to 50 miles when I was hurting so badly. By mile 30 I was nauseated and couldn’t eat more than a few bites of watermelon. I was hot, dehydrated and under fueled. I looked around at the smiling, happy faces around me and told myself: It’s so much harder for me, this race is easy for them.
What I didn’t know at the time is everyone struggles. Even if the runner is faster and can run farther than you, they struggle and feel pain too. During my 100 mile race I decided to smile for a whole 20 miles at every single runner who ran towards me on the loop. It made them smile back–and often they would say: Wow! You’re making this look easy! But the truth was, I was struggling too. I just chose to smile through it.
There was a time in the middle of 100 mile training where I felt myself feeling frayed–I cried to my husband: I don’t feel like I’m a good mom, a good wife, a good friend, a good daughter, a good, a good sister, a good runner. I felt like I was treading water and that is a dangerous place to be. I was feeling uncomfortable–as I added more miles, my tired body tried to tell me to quit. I kept yearning for it to get easier. It seemed so effortless for all the other ultra runners I followed on social media–why was I struggling so much?
Nobody likes feeling discomfort, but learning to be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable is one of the greatest lessons running has taught me. To embrace the hard just as much as I embrace the easy–none of those feelings are permanent. I don’t wish for easy anymore. Running 100 miles brought so me amazing highs and brutal lows–both were equally beautiful to me.
Because the truth is, when you start doing something that takes your life in a different direction–whether it’s training for a new distance, starting a new job, chasing a dream–there is a shift in your life as the balance is thrown off. Just because it doesn’t feel easy doesn’t mean you should stop –there has been an upheaval in your life which before that had been set on autopilot. You were comfortable. And trying something new can be hard. Really hard.
Eventually I adjusted to the long training runs and so did my family. We found a new routine and I learned to accept all the feelings of doubt and worry that would suddenly wash over me. Instead of worrying every time things got hard–with family or running–I reminded myself that just because it was getting hard didn’t mean I shouldn’t be doing it.
Humans are amazingly resilient. So while it may not get easy, you’ll find you can add on more miles.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
People often ask, how do you run such long distances? And I remind them that when I first started I could not complete one mile without stopping. One mile at at time. Sometimes one step at a time. It doesn’t always feel easy, but that’s OK.
Never Give Up,
(Lyrics: Bon Iver, Holcene)