Inspired by a good friend to run my first half marathon years ago, I never realized how running would help me cope with life’s difficulties ahead of me.
A good friend of mine is an out-of-the-ordinary wonder woman: she manages to juggle a successful career, a household, three children, her husband and her passion for sports. One day she told me her secret. And it was not what I expected.
“Marathon training with my husband has given us the best tools and solid foundations for our relationship,” she said. “It has taught us discipline, patience, the ability to work as a team, lean on each other and face challenges all while staying composed.”
Inspired by her focus, I challenged myself to a half marathon and have never looked back. I’ve since completed many half marathons all over the world, and retrospectively I realized how much running has positively contributed to the rest of my life.
In 2014, my father was faced with a serious health challenge. At the speed of light, we were caught up in a marathon of doctor’s appointments, medical tests, fear, anxiety, panic and tears. I felt like I was running 100 miles per hour trying to find solutions and make him well again.
Then, one day, a fellow runner alerted me: “You have to pace yourself, just like you would with a marathon. Otherwise you will burn out.” His words caught my attention. He was so right!
This is what 15 years of running has taught me:
1) Pace yourself
In a marathon, you start running at a slow pace and build up your tempo gradually. With my Dad’s ordeal, I had to learn to pace myself and reserve my energy for the series of hills and slopes. You simply cannot afford to burn out too fast.
2) Fuel properly
Marathon training requires ample hydration, carbo loading, rest and a good frame of mind. The same goes for life’s challenges. Do not forget to eat, drink, meditate, rest and take deep breaths. Life requires you to stay strong and sane; some times more than others.
3) Set targets
Whether it’s increasing your mileage, tempo or speed, building more endurance or running next to penguins in the South Pole, long distance running is all about targets. Targets keep you motivated. Life can be the same: start with one step today and gradually increase to more.
4) Pay attention to the beauty around you
Even on your worst running days when your body is failing you and you are in excruciating pain, remember to look around you and immerse yourself in the beauty of nature. You will – even for a few moments – divert your mind away from any aches. Try that with life.
5) Share the experience with a friend
When you run with company, you stay motivated. Long distances suddenly get easier and more fun. When faced with a health hiccup, having good friends to lean on makes everything so much easier.
6) You will meet strong and inspirational people
Whether it’s a blind runner, a grandfather running to raise money for his sick grandchild or an 80-year-old running with a smile, you will always be inspired by fellow runners. Get ready to be amazed by the strength and stamina of people who have been unwell for weeks, months, even years.
Above all, have faith. Eventually, you will find yourself. And, once it’s over, you will set your next goal… for life’s next marathon.