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The lessons of running.

Learned over the course of 5,000 miles

It's a fact: trying something new takes courage.

I fully recognize that I am a diver-inner. I am embarrassed to admit that the first thing written in my baby book to describe me is "stubborn." If I had any motivation, I would actually go dig it out of the piles of nostalgia stored in my shed and take a photo of that page. (In fact, when I was finishing graduate school, my father looked me in the eye and told me that I "aim too high" implying I should have quit before I began...which makes zero sense to me, both then and now.)

Recently, I considered my boys and how much potential still exists in their lives. And then I considered my own...most days it feels like much of my pure, innate potential was reached three decades ago. Can it be that all my big accomplishments are behind me?

And then, my husband asked me to start the Couch to 5K running program with him. Prior to this moment, I had never done anything athletic in my life (I don't consider dancing athletic, rather purely artistic). On March 13, 2011 I ran a half a mile and thought my lungs were going to explode. Now I can run 10 miles whenever I want, have medaled in several races, ran a mile at a 7:13 pace, and have logged almost 5,000 miles in six different states and three different countries.

So what have I learned?

Perseverance pays off.
More than once I have been running and battling that small voice in my head that is nagging me to quit. When that happens, I picture my son, the lefty pitcher, who at age 12 learned to dig deep in the face of a 3-0 count with the number 4 batter at the plate. At that young age, he learned to stay calm, reach beyond what he thinks he can do, and get an out. Often, when I feel like quitting, I picture him on the mound. What is your image of perseverance that motivates you?

Walk before you run...literally.
Now that I am six years into my running pursuits, I am struck by the fact that I have enjoyed it every step of the way. Because I started with the Couch to 5K workouts that were a combination of running and walking, I never felt over my head. And there were times early on when I repeated weeks of the Cto5K until I felt ready to move on. Take your time and increase gradually, avoid getting in over your head and, God forbid, causing an injury. You don't want to quit before you even get started.

Encouragement matters—from friends and others who are doing what you aspire to do.
Every time I go out for a run, my mom cheers me on. Every time I get home from a run, my husband asks me how I did. It is a small thing to them, but it means the world to me. My mom has been supporting me unabashedly since I was 10 and went to my first dance class, so I am not surprised. And my husband's repeated queries tickle me as they imply to me that he believes I still have room for improvement. If encouragement matters to you, be sure to thank those who are supporting you; let them know they are an important part of your success.

Race your own race.

Don't worry what other people can do or are doing...only worry about what you can do and do that. It is dangerous to compare your work to what others can achieve. Everyone's body is different. It is imperative to do your own thing. Celebrate the accomplishments of others and they will celebrate yours.

So whatever it is you are trying to brave. Dive in. Persevere. And above all, race your own race.

2.18.12 Haiku-style poem, composed while running
Running. Blood pulsing,
arms pulling. Music filled mind.
Spirit soars. Freedom.