A really bad one. (If you want to know how a non-runner, genetically messed-up with a permanent limp, would rather die than run type of person like me ended up a runner, this is the story. Also, it's why I should wear a cape.)
Have you ever watched those Olympic runners move? I don't know if they sprinkle glitter on themselves before they hit the road (which I'm totally going to do now that I have thought of it), but they glisten in the sunlight. Their muscles contract and extend like a perfect machine. They put the road behind them with speed and grace, and could probably conduct a full interview with the local television station and never miss a beat.
That's not me.
If someone says "Hey! Look at that!" while I'm running, I'll sneak a glance and end up in the ditch, guaranteed. If my shoe laces can come undone, they will, which is why I tie them into the Kyra-Special-Knot-of-Death every time I head out. I bring tissues with me, because apparently my nose keeps a better pace than I do. My spandex makes whistling noises when my thighs hit just right that alerts all the insects in the area that a giant cricket is coming their way, and sets dogs to howling.
I have had people ask me time and time again why I run. Why don't I just do something easier on my body? Why not go for a swim, or a bike ride, or just a walk? Why do I have to run?
I run because I suck at it.
Sometimes it's not about being the best. Sometimes it's not about winning. Sometimes it's not about doing something you're good at.
Sometimes it's about proving that you can do something anyway, because it's the hard things in life that teach you the most about everything else.
So, here is what being a sucktastic runner has taught me about life (and can be applied to just about anything in life from a healthy life style to dealing with unfriendly situations):
- Don't worry about your pace. It doesn't matter how long it takes you to get there, it only matters that you actually make it. Sure, there are people who are going to get to that destination first, but does that make the fact that you made it there matter any less? No! If we all decided to only set out to achieve things we can come in first in and nothing else, think how much we would miss out on!
- Don't worry about how other people do it. In running (and just about everything else in life) there will be people lining up to tell you how they do it. They want to tell you what they use, from methods, to products, to thought processes. If you want to take in some of that information, that's fine. If you want to take bits and pieces and leave the rest, that's fine too. And if you want to tell the person to shut up, well... you should probably just nod at them and then move on with your life (but we've all been there.)
- No one can make you take the first step or any step after that, except you. They also can't stop you from taking any step you want. It doesn't matter how enthusiastic someone is about something. It doesn't matter how much someone else wants you to do something. It only matters if you want to do something. No one can make you do it. No one can stop you from doing it. What power you possess!
- Remember to breath! Sometimes when things seem hard, or you think you can't go any further, you just need to take a few well measured deep breaths. Sometimes breathing makes all the difference.
- Run the minute you're in. Being a sucktastic runner means that running is HARD. It means that every moment I spend running is a real effort. What I learned was not to worry about the miles in front of me, or how much time I had spent, but to focus on the minute I am in. I have always done run/walk intervals where I said to myself "Don't worry about the distance, you're only running to X minute, then you get a breather. So, just run THIS minute, no matter how slow. Do what you need to keep moving forward for this minute. The next one will get here soon enough." And that advice works in every situation I can think of!
- Regroup. When you run you will fall down. You will trip. You will get injured. You will wake up and hate it. You will take a wrong turn. You will get chased by dogs with their owners looking at you like YOU should do something. You will chafe, bruise, twist, stink, and eat bugs. What you need to do at those times (once you find a moment to actually stop for a minute) is to regroup. You need to refocus your intent on your original purpose, and then start again.
- Take a day off. No one should be running seven days a week. Yes, there are genetic freaks of nature that can somehow run every day and thrive, but for the rest of us mere humans we risk injury, fractures, and burnout. You MUST take time to rest. You must take time to do other things. You need to have other interests to create a balanced body and life. And sometimes? Sometimes you just need to put your feet up and chill.
- Take care of yourself, you are the biggest factor in this equation. Everything starts and ends with you. It doesn't matter how great your equipment is if you are falling apart. If you put the wrong fuel into your body, your fancy shoes are not going to cross that finish line for you. If you don't physically take care of your body and mind, the rest of your life will suffer too.
- It doesn't matter if someone else has already been there, this is the first time for you. Just because someone else has run a trail or race, it doesn't mean you have. This is especially important to remember for when you set out to do other things in your life. For example, one of the things that is told to writers frequently is that "All the stories have already been written, you cannot come up with a single new idea." First, I think that's a load of bull. Second, maybe they have - but they haven't been done by YOU. You are the unique ingredient to any of your experiences. Don't let someone else rob you or everyone else of what you can bring to the table.
- An accomplishment is an accomplishment and it deserves to be respected and celebrated. I don't care if someone else ran that route faster or farther than you did. YOU ran it, and that's a big freaking deal! In any success there will be others who say that someone else did something better than you. None of that matters. You did this, you accomplished this, and that matters. It always matters. And it will not matter less based on what someone else may have done.
- Wedgies happen. Well, they DO! Sometimes you have to find a private area and deal with it, and sometimes you have to decide which is more uncomfortable: the issue, or being seen dealing with it. Story. Of. My. Life.
- You have to train for what you want. No one is handed things worth having in this life. You don't win gold just by showing up one day because you had nothing else to do. You plan. You figure out the steps you need to take, the milestones you need to reach in order to achieve the end goal you have in mind.
- Coming in last is NOT losing. I've done that, come in last. Dead last. Cry your eyes out and people making rude remarks last. That nightmare you imagine when you think of signing up for a race? Yeah, that was me. You know what? Finishing last is STILL FINISHING. It's an accomplishment. An achievement. It matters. It's good. It's worth celebrating. Period.
- If you keep taking steps, you WILL get there. The only thing that can stop you, is you. If you keep making forward progress you will eventually get there. Fast or slow, good mood or bad attitude, forward progress is forward progress and every little step, hop, jump and slither matter.
I could keep on going because the lessons keep on coming, but that's a good snapshot at what running has taught me. Something I outright suck at, and I have gotten that much out of it. Perhaps that's the biggest lesson of all: It's possible that the thing you are the worst at but keep doing, the thing that you hate, that thing that makes you uncomfortable - it's possible that thing holds the most wisdom for your life, and that makes it worthwhile.
So, I will continue to run, both in life and on the road. My shambling run would make the Walking Dead zombies envious, I know, but I'll still keep doing it. My thighs will whistle, my feet will clomp, my breath will wheeze, and places will jiggle that should never be seen jiggling. And it will be worth it every single time, both in life and on the road.