For most people who are not into running it’s just a hobby like cooking or going to the movies. Others think running long distances is boring and the only benefit is to improve ones health a bit. In my opinion running is so much more. It is a metaphor of our lives and we can learn lessons from it that we can apply to how we live and how we see things. Maybe beginning runners don’t see the point of this post but I’m pretty sure some of you (ultra-) marathoners out there do. Here are five life lessons I think you can learn from long distance running:
This is not by coincidence the first of the lessons I describe. This is the one that when learned while running can help you in so many real life situations. When you run a marathon or even further, you most probably will come to a point where you have a hard time convincing yourself to go on. It’s that time when you hit the wall and your mind tricks you and finds so many excuses to justify stopping the race you’re in. The only thing that helps in these situations is the iron will to go on and finish what you started. At the moment you cross the finish line you immediately know that it was worth battling through the earlier struggles. Though exhausted you are happy from head to toe and have a great feeling that you accomplished something awesome.
Just imagine what would have happen if you take the easy road and just give up in these situation. You wouldn’t achieve anything but end your run with a bad feeling. This can well be translated to many situations of your everyday life. Say you had some hard days at work, you’re stuck with something or your boss is just annoying. Or you have an argument with a friend or your spouse. If you give up you will just end things and miss the opportunity to heal and come out of a struggle with success. The mechanism of handling the bad times is in my opinion the same in a race or in the situations mentioned.
When is the last time you spent an entire day like humans did thousands of years ago? And how did this day look like? In our busy and industrialized western life style we have mostly forgotten how our species spend most of the time it existed. Our ancestors started walking on two legs more than 3 million years ago and the homo erectus is suggested to be the first to have the dominant endurance running capabilities. And that was almost 2 million years ago! Offices, computers, cars and smartphones are all inventions from the last and the current century. This is not what we are naturally. From a long-term anthropological point of view we spent most of our time outside collecting food and hunting animals to get the nutrients that helped us get such an amazing brain to build all the modern things we take for granted today.
If you spend some hours outside running you get a feeling of how life was some hundred-thousand years ago. Back in the time when we were endurance hunters way before building our first weapons. Endurance running is a way to travel back in time and helps you remember where we come from and who we really are. Most marathon runners don’t just run one such event but stick to it even though it needs a lot of effort. This might be because it not only feels natural to run but it really is for us!
Being in front of a screen and sitting in a comfortable office chair all day disconnects you from your natural surrounding. You get less aware of your habitat in a way and also stop taking care of it. Going outside running on a regular basis brings back that connection. You can experience how the vegetation changes throughout the year or how the different temperatures affect your body while exercising. On a run to the woods you might well see more animals than other people and can enjoy their sounds and movements rather than just being focused on push notifications, news and work. Over time you start treasure these moments you’re outside, you might even embrace intense heat as well as pouring rain. As you sense the impact that your surrounding and the climate has on you, the more you might think about how you or we as humans influence nature. Most people I know running or the ones I read about in their books or blogs respect nature more since they started running. And so do I.
Some people are very confident about most parts of their life. They know what theiy’re able to do whether it is in their profession or in a hobby or in family life. For others that is a bit different and those are the ones that mostly underestimate themselves. An area where we tend to underestimate ourselves is endurance sports. I guess the reason for that is that we’re no longer used to conduct such activities. A lot of first time marathon runners are surprised of what they were able to do and this is even more the case for ultra marathoners. It’s awesome to see what your body and mind is capable of. The confidence you gain when running long distances can also have a great impact on other parts of your life and can improve the way you look at yourself. Endurance running is a self-confidence booster in a way.
Have you ever been overwhelmed with work? Have you had times in your life where there was just too much stuff keeping your mind occupied? Well our ancestors didn’t! They had mainly one thing in their mind: to survive. In our modern, western society we usually no longer have to worry about hunting down our food. It’s much more about earning enough money to be able to buy the things companies tell us we must have. This doesn’t feel very natural if you think about it and our way of living now demands some balance. Regular exercise is a good way to balance your life out a bit, especially when performing endurance sports outdoors in the fresh air. Most people who were running regularly for some weeks or months and reflect on what has changed since they started, will tell you that they feel much better, healthier and are able to get better sleep than before. A great piece of awareness that you shouldn’t forget once you made it.
What are the big lessons you learned from running? Share them in the comments section!
If you agree with the learnings I made, let’s share this post and spread the word and let all the non-runners know why running is so much more than just working out!