16 September 2010

life lessons, learned via running

Acknowledging the notion that this is starting to seem like a running blog {or a blog where I talk myself out of feeling bad about my race on Sunday}, I've written about running again.

If you don't want to read about running again, you can try this.  I promise it's not about running at all. 

If you want to persevere and read about running one more time:  congratulations.  You seem to already have one of the traits that running develops in people—sticking with something, even when you're not sure why.

And that brings me to my point:  Running is notoriously full of life lessons.

There are the obvious ones: discipline, motivation, goal-setting.

These are obvious even to non-runners, as they see a group of runners at Starbucks at 8:00 on a Saturday morning, sweat caked on their faces if it's summer or faces still bright red from the cold if it's winter. They hear the runners talking about how they got up at 5:00 on a weekend to run miles and miles so that they can set a new personal record {PR} in their next race. That's discipline, motivation, and goal-setting on display for everyone with a tall latte to see.

Then there are the less-obvious lessons.

Learning how to reward yourself, even with small things—that's one.

Runners are good at pushing through a long run because they've promised themselves a big breakfast, complete with sausage and five cups of coffee. I've done a manicure/pedicure before as a reward—that was after the NYC Half-marathon in 2008. I went to this little place on the Upper West Side my dad calls Connie Chung's. It's really just called Connie's, but for reason we don't get, he always tacks on the Chung and so that is its family name.

Non-runners may find this illogical and preposterous: why would you run for hours, only to give yourself coffee?

Small rewards do work, at least for very small children and runners.

When I would go to the dentist as a little girl, I would get so excited to pick something out of the Treasure Chest at the end of my cleaning. The stuff in there probably cost a penny to make at a factory in China—we're talking plastic whistles and stickers and pencils with those erasers that don't really work—but it was special because it a) was in a wooden Treasure Chest. It's all about presentation, and every 6-year-old knows that anything in a Treasure Chest is worth it. And b) I enjoyed focusing on the dilemma of what to get while getting my teeth cleaned.

Should I go for the stickers this time? Maybe that whistle shaped like a bird that even sounds like a real bird when you put water in it? These are very helpful, distracting thoughts when you're trying not to think about how someone has their fingers in your mouth.

Runners learn how to re-capture that reward mentality and put it to good use. Now, it's not like I promise myself a new car after every big race: I have just the one garage and then there are the limited financial resources to consider.

Through running, I've learned how to be motivated by small things—and how to really appreciate those small things. This is, perhaps, why I have my list of small life necessities. They're simple rewards that bring simple pleasure, but they help counter the idea that you should always strive after the next big thing. What you have right now, the small joys of the everyday, can bring contentment.

1 comment:

  1. How fitting that you wrote this today. Dedication and goal-setting are important in many aspects of life and I love that it is seen through the eyes of a runner.



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