What running has taught me about persistence

IMG_1136I’m not quite sure why I started running; although as a highly impressionable 13-year-old I strongly suspect a movie with a beautiful protagonist who also started her days with a morning run may have had something to do with it.

In any case, I do vividly remember making the decision to get up early (that’s right about the time I started drinking coffee too) and run in the downtown area of where we lived at the time (probably not the safest decision, looking back).

Back then, running one mile was a huge trial and something worthy of celebration after. It didn’t come easily: there was a lot of hard breathing, cramping, and frustration involved in the process.

Eight years later, running a mile is still something that doesn’t come easily to me. While I’ve definitely increased my average mileage (not by much, but still), I hardly ever finish my run thinking ‘gosh that was easy, let’s go again.’ Instead, I typically just ask myself ‘why am I doing this?‘ repeatedly until I finish.

Yesterday as I struggled through a two mile run over the Ravenel bridge (it’s steep ok), I actually thought about my answer to this question.

Of course a primary reason is that over the years I’ve learned the value of exercise. Moving our bodies is one of the best things we can do to take care of ourselves and I’ve experienced that firsthand myself. Even if it is just 20 minutes a few days a week, the difference between when I make the decision to do that for myself and when I don’t is significant. Running regularly helps me sleep better, stay relaxed, feel good about myself and encourages me to make more good decisions (after all, an object that is in motion stays in motion and all that).

But another, more important (to me at least) reason is that it’s hard.

Although I’m sure it may be for other (more athletic) people, running has never been easy for me and I don’t think that is likely to change. Every time I go out I have to make the decision to push through the discomfort toward a goal I think is worth it (physical well-being, peace of mind etc).

The reason I believe this to be so important is because doing hard things is good. In a culture where instant gratification is pretty much expected, things that require time and effort seem to have lost their value to us. While I certainly love social media, being able to text people halfway across the country, deposit money into my bank account with my phone in seconds or order a new top that comes to my house two days later, I also strongly believe in the importance of things that take work.

Relationships, self-improvement & entrepreneurial ventures are just a few examples of things that can be super challenging, but also incredibly worthwhile. Sometimes I think that because of all the good things that come from our world of quick results, we’ve adopted a mindset of hard things as bad, while really sometimes the best things are also the hardest.

This ‘easy is good’ mentality makes it near impossible for us to do things like stay in relationships that aren’t perfect, stick to jobs that have lost their novelty & continue to exercise and eat well when it doesn’t get easier. The truth is that challenge is a significant part of life and being able to overcome difficulty is what allows us to grow and become more of who we are.

Persistence: firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition. – GOOGLE

Running has taught me that good and beautiful things are often challenging and that persistence is one of the most valuable qualities we can have in life. And the even cooler thing about persistence, is that anyone can have it. You don’t have to be good at sports, or artistically talented or a good writer or cook or somehow gifted to be persistent. Rather, it is a choice you make over and over to persevere in spite of challenges.

I’m not a good runner, running is not something that comes naturally to me. Just like a lot of things (like, a lot) running is something I have to work at continually; not despite of the challenge it offers but rather because of it.

If we can’t learn to do hard things we will miss out on so much. 

If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere. – FRANK A. CLARK

I challenge you this week, even if you are a good runner, to do something that is hard for you. Whether that is exercising patience while sitting in traffic, going to the gym after a long day at work, choosing peace when you’re tempted to be anxious, letting go of a negative thought/comment/event, or just getting up a little earlier in the morning (or going to bed earlier at night). Choose just one little thing that presents a challenge and choose to do it because you know it’s good for you & you have something to lose by not doing so.

I like to think that the more we choose things that are difficult, the more prepared we will be when a challenge that is outside our control (and often of greater scale) presents itself to us.

It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves. – EDMUND HILLARY

Hope you have a wonderful (& slightly challenging) week.



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