We’re often told that we get out of relationships what we put into them which, frankly, is total BS. Sometimes you pour your time and energy into your training only to wind up injured. Fair? No. But a great reminder to roll with life’s punches. Sometimes we love people who don’t have the courage to love us back. Sometimes we put our heart into a job only to be passed over for that big promotion. Finding success isn’t about living a life without setbacks. Rather, success comes when you decide to take control of your reaction to life’s curveballs.
2) Your rivals are not your enemies.
An agent friend once told me a story about a woman who won a major marathon…while knocking the fluid bottles of her top competitor off of the water tables as she went by. Honestly, of all people, shouldn’t we be closest with those who share our passions and are as devoted and hard working as we are? Don’t confuse competition with animosity.
3) The scale is not your friend.
Over the years I’ve raced between 98 and 114 pounds and have found no link between my lowest weight and my fastest times. Running for weight loss is one thing, but more often than not, when runners become obsessed with hitting a certain weight, their goals shift from the quality of their racing performance to how well they can restrict calories or how good they look in the jersey. My advice? Chuck the scale. Train hard and your body will settle at the weight it needs to be.
4) The runner’s high.
It’s real. Fight me on this.
5) It's okay to play.
The other day I was on a trail run with my sister and we came up on a stream crossing that was a bit too wide to jump. “I bet we could do it with a running start,” I wagered. So, I backed up and charged that sucker, planting my foot on the bank to launch myself over only to find that it was made entirely of mud. I faceplanted into the stream, crawled to the bank and turned around to find Georgia doubled over, laughing. “You do it!” I yelled, then watched her make the exact same mistake, falling in up to her waist. The best stories come from the days you decide to just have an adventure.
6) Dogs are the worst.
There. I said it. I’ve been bitten four times while out running. I’ve had to use mace on charging dogs more than once and I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve heard a clueless dog owner shout, “HE’S FRIENDLY” as their loose animal barrels toward me, snarling with spit flying from its jowls. Hard pass.
7) Runners are intellectuals.
Take a friend for a long run and just let the magic happen. Some of the deepest conversations I’ve ever had happened out in the woods, hours into a run.
8) Dreams are valid.
At 14-years old, I wrote in my dairy, “I want to be a professional runner”. I was a teenage kid running a 20-minute 5k and the odds were anything but in my favor. You have my permission to flip the bird to anyone who discredits your goals.
9) Bananas are disgusting.
I’d rather eat the grass behind the finish line than those post-race mush batons.
10) There is no better way to explore.
I often run through the streets, trails and bike paths of a new place and think about just how lucky I am to see the world this way. Life is prettiest a few miles off the beaten path.
11) Your support system matters.
I’ve coached athletes who are completely on their own, training hard while living with a spouse who doesn’t care about their goals and logging miles without the company of friends or training partners. Don’t take your squad for granted.
12) Sacrifice is relative.
I’ve given things up in pursuit of my running, but if you asked me, “what major sacrifices have you made?” I’d have trouble thinking of an answer. The truth is, when you love something and give it priority in your life, sacrifices suddenly don’t feel like sacrifices.
13) Lose well.
It’s very obvious when people do not lose graciously. Don’t be that guy.
14) Sexism is alive and well.
I was once called a “rabid feminist” for suggesting that men and women should run the same distance for cross country in an open letter to the NCAA, an imbalance that has still yet to be rectified, even in 2019. I’ve witnessed the over-sexualization of women in my sport and have had absolutely disgusting things shouted at me from open car windows as I’ve been out training. This saddens me to my core, and makes me long for change, but it also makes me appreciate Pete, Steve, Michael, Josh, James and all of the other wonderfully supportive men in my corner.
15) Marathons are special.
I’ve raced every distance from the 200 meters to the marathon and there is something so special about 26.2. The total depletion of mind and body that occurs in the final few miles of that race are unlike anything I’ve ever been through, and it is no exaggeration to say that I’ve never crossed the finish line of a marathon feeling like the same person I was when I started.
16) $#!* Happens.
I dare you to tell me you’ve never pooped in the woods.
17) Pros are people too.
Despite what you may think, pro runners are not all type-A, robotic drones who put in 120-mile weeks and think of nothing but training. Kellyn Taylor, for instance, has a quirky, shy side, and I once watched her serenaded by an elderly Irish gentleman with a very loud Celtic ballad in his heart after a race in Vegas. Tina Muir is a straight up entrepreneur. The women I trained with at ZAP, particularly Mary, Sinead and Joanna are some of the crudest, funniest, most genuine and caring friends I’ve ever had, and Desi Linden is one of the most well-read and just plain cool people I’ve ever had the privilege to meet. Professional runners, like everyone else, are well rounded individuals with as many different personalities as you can imagine.
18) Failure is Powerful.
I wouldn’t take back those rough days. And if you’re a runner, you know why. I am who I am because of the days I struggled, yet kept going.
19) Pain is valuable.
The most disappointed I’ve been after a race was not when I finished dead last, staggering across the finish line with my feet bleeding in a bad pair of spikes and clutching at a side stitch. No, it was after a half marathon that I won easily without pushing at all. Pain is incredibly challenging to manage in the moment, but nothing makes you prouder of yourself than crossing a finish line after having given your all. Reflect, for a moment, on the truth that the average person never puts their body or mind through what runners do on a regular basis.
20) There’s no shame in slow running.
If you ever feel down about your pace, please know that I once recorded a 14-minute mile, stagger-running back to my car after a hard workout.
21) The big secret.
If the last 16 years have taught me anything, it’s what separates the champions from the rest. It’s not talent. It’s not guts, or desire, or well-developed racing tactics. Nope. It’s consistency. Simple as that. The spoils go to those who still lace up even when they don’t want to. Podiums are topped by those who rise, rain or shine, snow or triple-digits and train. Consistency is the number one factor I can suggest to an athlete who comes to me wondering how to reach their potential.
22) Ditching the screen.
Let’s face it, an hour or two of fresh air every day isn’t the worst thing in our tech-obsessed culture.
23) Finish lines are beautiful.
Hang out for a while after your next race. There is an incredible spectrum of human emotion to witness in those 20 feet after the line.
24) It’s okay to be alone.
Don’t fear solitude. Take yourself for a solo run. You might just realize you’re a pretty cool person to hang out with.
25) Your body deserves better.
It’s remarkable how much more comfortable I am in my own skin now than when I was twenty. Part of this is growing up, but part of it is running too. Sometimes I can hardly believe that my legs are able to do what they do. We are all tempted to focus on the worst parts of our anatomy, but your body works hard for you. Treat it nicely.
26) And so does your mind.
I’m so astounded by it, the human brain, this crazy, squishy thing in my head that allows me to put my body in the flames and keep it there during a race. In the grand scheme of things, I know very little about anything, but I respect the ability of my mind to whittle away at my body’s resistance to discomfort.
27) Racing still sucks.
It’s every bit as scary and as difficult as it was when I was 14.
28) Find a shoe you like.
I’ve finished a marathon with half a dozen raw spots on my feet. I know the agony of an ill-fitting pair of shoes, and I’m so lucky to have been blessed by a sponsorship with a company whose shoes keep my feet happy for 26 miles of pounding. Shoes aren’t working for you? Trust me on this, give 361’s a try.
29) Life is Short.
I’ve been a runner longer than I wasn’t. It’s hard for me to believe I’ve now been running for 16 years. I was 14, falling in love with a beautiful sport. I blinked and I was 17, leaving home and chasing my dream to a university. I blinked and I was 21, signing a contract to run professionally, I blinked again and I was 27 following my heart to Flagstaff where I would see my fastest running. I know that one of these days, I’m going to blink and find myself at the tail end of my career. Life moves so much faster than we think.
30) Running doesn’t define me.
Or you. Setting your heart on something fading means that when it fades, your heart fades with it. Even as I’ve advanced in my running career, I’ve detached my running further and further from who I am. Running is worthwhile, but it is not how I determine my worth, and it’s not how you should determine yours.
Well, congrats for making it to the end of the list (especially you, offended dog owner). Take a minute to reflect on what running has taught you.