Lessons from Forrest (or what I’ve learned through running)
- Proper planning is crucial. My breakfast before a long run is always the same- oatmeal, peanut butter toast and a banana- because it fuels my run without causing stomach issues. I am just as particular about race day prep: I attach my timing chip to my shoes and place them by the door, pin my bib to my singlet and lay out all of my clothing. Any distance runner will tell you how important it is to figure out what works for you and stick with it on race day. It’s just as important to plan in life, whether it is for that trip of a lifetime, graduate school or marriage. Planning provides direction and helps you prioritize.
- However, being flexible can help prevent disasters. I’ve written before that I recently had to take a few months off from running because of Achilles tendinitis. My physical therapist (and just about anyone else) emphasized that the only way I would get better was to stretch. A lot. If I wanted to return to running, I had to improve my flexibility or risk an Achilles rupture. Over the past couple of years, life has presented me with unexpected opportunities. These opportunities haven’t exactly fit into my plans but by being flexible I have studied at Oxford, forged new relationships, and grown professionally.
- Sometimes you just gotta go. This is going to sound gross, but as a runner, I have learned to “go” just about anywhere. Let’s be honest, when you’re on the trail in the middle of a 15 mile training run, you might not always find a proper toilet. When that happens, find a semi-private area and go. Likewise, in life, conditions may not always be ideal. You may not be working with the “perfect” team and the timing may leave a bit to be desired. Go anyway! There will never be a perfect time, but you should still go.
- Just when you think your tank is empty, dig in and go farther. I have run 3 marathons and several races of shorter distances. Inevitably, there comes a point in the race when I feel like my legs are going to fall off and I can no longer be held accountable for the words that come out of my mouth. When this happens, I usually want to quit the race. Fortunately, this usually happens when I am close to the end and I am much closer to finishing than I am to the beginning. It is also at this time that I remember all of the training I have done to get me to this point and that I’ve gone this distance before, so I keep moving forward. I may be walking, but I keep making forward progress, reminding myself “you don’t have to go fast, you just have to go.”
- Yet, know when you have reached your limits and it is time to take a break. There have been times when I have tried to run while injured and my body quickly let me know that it wasn’t a good idea. Being injured sucks! But I have learned that my body can only do so much and when that limit has reached, it’s time to rest. In life, sometimes you have to rest. Between working full-time, going to full-time and trying to have a life, this past year has been crazy busy. When I had a break, I busied myself with lying on the couch to watch movies. I had been working really hard all year and it was time to relax and take a break.
- I am much stronger than I ever imagined. Runners frequently mention setting a “PR” or personal record. Going farther or faster than I have before is exhilarating. When life stresses me out and I am close to my breaking point, I remember that my running has proven to me that I am much stronger than I ever could have imagined and I keep going.