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Editor’s column: what I’ve learned from race training Part 1

Photo courtesy of Nikki Smith
Photo  courtesy of Nikki Smith
Photo courtesy of Nikki Smith

Every year at the end of December, social media is plastered with photos or statuses with the cliché New Year, new me. The rest of us roll our eyes and keep scrolling, but this year that annoying girl was me.

That phrase has never crossed my lips or been typed out on my screen, but my gym selfies and FitSnaps are numerous enough to make my friends cringe.

I will be honest: just nine short months ago I was completely different. I was lazy and overweight. I dreaded the gym. I had a relationship with candy no one could compete with. I was the girl who was always self-conscious, and I felt defeated.

All of a sudden, everything changed. I was frustrated with being sluggish, unhealthy and uncomfortable with myself. Inspired by an aunt who has completed many half and full marathons, I downloaded the Couch to 5K app and so began my relationship with running.

I want to say that it was easy, fun and I looked forward to each workout of the program, but I’d be lying. It was hard. It pushed me. The screaming of my muscles and my warm bed begging me not to go out each morning sometimes blocked out the goals I set in January, but I pushed through.

I completed my first 5K, which was my only goal at first, then quickly signed up for a 10K. I lost 45 pounds, and now I am training for my first half marathon, the Jazz Half coming up in November. Running has not only physically changed me, but has taught me many lessons.

Running has taught me:

1. Good work ethic. Achievements take hard work. No one ever got anywhere by sitting on the couch and not putting forth any effort. Hard work is necessary to achieve any goal.

I always knew those things were true, but running reminded me each time I pulled on those Asics, lost a toenail or felt the burn of chafing. Runners cannot get faster or stronger without practice. Unless you’re a superhuman it is unlikely you can just go out and run a marathon without training.

Once you commit to something like that you have to put in the effort to make it happen. This truth translated into other areas of my life as well. You can’t maintain friendships or relationships without putting in the time and effort.

2. Friends are important. This one is a big deal. I know it seems like a given, but I cannot stress enough how meaningful friendships are. They are the people who bring you a glass of wine when you have had a bad day, fix coffee and lend an ear when you have a stressful day ahead of you and are always there for a good laugh or encouraging word.

It seems strange, but running really opened my eyes to that. Nothing teaches you how not to let someone down than knowing someone is waiting on you at 5:30 a.m. for a five mile pace run. You cannot make it through without each other’s encouragement and drive. And you better show up on time.

3. Do not compare yourself to others. This was a hard lesson for me to learn. Training alongside marathoners is wonderful, but can be discouraging. All the runners that I know are very encouraging and kind, but it’s hard to see them finish 12 miles before you can get to nine.

I really struggle with feeling defeated when I see others who can run faster and longer than I can, but I have to remind myself that I’m not out there because of them. I don’t drag my tired body from the bed in the mornings to compete with anyone but myself. I run to be better than I was the day before, not better than others.

When you stop comparing yourself to others is when you can really grow, whether it is on the field, in the classroom or on the job.

Running has taught me about myself – my limits, my endurance – and helped to better me. I remember that girl I was and I run from her. I press forward and put as many miles between us as possible.

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Editor’s column: what I’ve learned from race training Part 1