By Melissa Seuster
Normally, this is the time of year when conversations turn to that certain question that generates excitement and hours of conversation among fellow running geeks: What are you training for?
This year, nothing is “normal.” While many are participating in virtual races or challenges, others have totally fallen off the grid and lost motivation. Regardless of in which camp you fall, training for a race is well worth the time an energy, even if the race happens in your own backyard. Here’s what I’ve learned in training, that keeps me up and running even without a specific “goal race” in mind:
1. Discipline: Adhering to a training schedule is not easy. Even when you love what you are doing, eventually physical and mental exhaustion kicks in. I have never known a runner who at one time did not want to say, “I give up.” The joy is in pushing through that feeling and basting in the glory of accomplishing something that you doubted you could do. If you can do it with running, you can apply it to other things in your life like career, family or health. So, come up with a plan and stick with it! Find a training partner or coach to hold you accountable. Set the time aside to make it a priority, and you will learn a lesson that will carry you through many other challenges in life.
2. Patience: Did you ever feel like something you wanted was just within reach, only to find that it wasn’t? Remember back in March when we were told to stay at home and quit doing practically everything? I expected it to last two weeks, which turned into 3+ months, and we are still in the dark about how long this pandemic will last. Running a marathon has taught me the mirage of “almost there.” It is a state that can only be overcome with lots of patience. Eventually we do get there, and the feeling is AMAZING.
3. Overcoming Self-doubt: recently I was swimming in the ocean and got caught in a rip current. No matter how strong I was, there were forces beyond my control pulling me under, and I was afraid that I would drown. I distinctly remember telling myself, “I don’t think I can do this.” Have you ever said that during a race? I know I have. When I feel like I am literally or figuratively drowning, I remember that point in the marathon … that moment of self-doubt… and then I get angry. Don’t let anyone tell you that “you can’t,” … not even yourself!
4. Resilience: Another thing I’ve learned through training for a race is that you have to be able to roll with the punches. When I ran the Blue Ridge Relay in 2013, we ran in all types of weather and at all times of day and night. Many of you recently completed the Yeti Challenge and experienced a similar situation. The conditions were not ideal, but we just kept going. We fall down, we get up and keep going. We have a bad race, and we try harder next time. And that is an essential life lesson, because true success comes from many failures.
5. Hope: Like many of you, I miss racing. I miss the anticipation, the expectation of completing a new challenge, and the hope that I will cross the finish line in the time that I have projected and trained for. I know that I have a long road ahead, that I will meet self-doubt, and I will have to rely on patience and resilience. No matter how hard it gets, I never give up hope that it will get easier. And so it is with the current situation. It is a long road. It can be scary. And sometimes we want to give up. Don’t forget about our friend Hope.
Keep running, my friends. It’s the glue holding us together right now.
Melissa Seuster is a certified Health Coach, RRCA Running Coach, and certified health education specialist (CHES) who loves to run marathons and serves on the CRC board. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.