life lessons from running

As many of you know, running is a major passion of mine.  As well as providing the obvious physical and mental wellbeing benefits, running for me is a metaphor for life. A run is a journey. A microcosm of an individual life’s adventure.

A few weeks ago, I ran a 10k race. This may not seem like such a big deal to you – after all, I have run many 10k’s in my time. However, I hadn’t run one for the past two years, and to be honest, I was quite nervous, wondering whether I could still complete the course in a decent time I didn’t feel ‘ready’. In fact, I could very easily have persuaded myself not to bother at all. After all, it was a public holiday, I’d had a busy week, and there were plenty of other things I could have done with my time.

However, deep down, I really wanted to do it and knew that if I didn’t, I would have let myself down.

So, at 9am, myself and about 100 other runners gathered at the start line of the Esher Church 10k. I always feel apprehensive at the start line, but in that moment I decided to take the mindset that I’ll do my best, and see what happens. So with this philosophy, when the gun sounded, I set off.

Without boring you with the ins and outs of the race, suffice it to say that I’m really glad I did it. It wasn’t my personal best time by a long way. In fact, to be honest, it may well have been among my personal worst, but in that journey I learnt five life lessons, and it is these that I want to share with you today:


    1. Start before you’re ready. You can spend a lot of time practising and trying to be perfect, but in truth you never are truly ready. Having not run 10k’s for a couple of years, I felt very out of practise. Whilst I still run a lot, my runs these days are far more about stress reduction and mental resilience, than a focus on distance and time. I use the time to listen to podcasts, which means that I have got used to stopping regularly to take notes! I didn’t even know whether I could still actually run the full 10k without stopping! But, by the end the race, I knew I could. The experience led to a growth in my own self-confidence.
    2.  Track your progress and measure key data points. Measuring progress is so important to keep you focused and motivated. Runners, myself included, often obsess over tracking times, and for good reason. At my fitness peak, my 10k time was 45mins. Sometimes it was 45mins and 10 seconds, sometimes 45mins and 30 seconds, but always 45mins. On one occasion, I managed to beat 45 minutes, and achieved a personal best of 44 minutes and 50 seconds! I know….. it was just 10 seconds, but to achieve those few seconds took up a huge amount of personal resources. My point: data gives you the facts and shows you where you are, so that you can set goals to help take things to a new level.
    3. Build your support network. Whilst being independent is great, we all need other people to give and receive support. Some people are really good at holding themselves accountable and don’t need accountability partners in place. Many aren’t so good at this, and need other people in order to gain the motivation to act. Personally, I’m usually pretty good at holding myself accountable, but I did mention the 10k race to a colleague at work who said he’ll do it too. As soon as he said that, I knew that I had to do it as well! I was committed.
    4. Enjoy the journey. The 10k was a wonderful experience. The journey – part of life lessons from running. The run took us through some beautiful woodlands, and though I felt under pressure to keep going, I consciously started to take in my surroundings, looking at the wonder surrounding me. If it wasn’t for the race, I would have missed this life experience. Life goes very quickly and we can easily miss it, as David L. Weatherford highlights in his thought-provoking poem “Slow Dance”:
Have you ever watched kids on a merry-go-round,
or listened to rain slapping the ground?
Ever followed a butterfly’s erratic flight,
or gazed at the sun fading into the night?
You better slow down, don’t dance so fast,
time is short, the music won’t last.
Do you run through each day on the fly,
when you ask “How are you?”, do you hear the reply?
When the day is done, do you lie in your bed,
with the next hundred chores running through your head?
You better slow down, don’t dance so fast,
time is short, the music won’t last.
Ever told your child, we’ll do it tomorrow,
and in your haste, not see his sorrow?
Ever lost touch, let a friendship die,
’cause you never had time to call and say hi?
You better slow down, don’t dance so fast,
time is short, the music won’t last.
When you run so fast to get somewhere,
you miss half the fun of getting there.
When you worry and hurry through your day,
it’s like an unopened gift thrown away.
Life isn’t a race, so take it slower,
hear the music before your song is over.
  1. Review & celebrate your success. When the race was over, my colleague and I had a quick review of our performances, analysing the experience and outlining the areas of improvements whilst it was all still fresh. So often, in life and in business, we go from one project to the next, without taking the time to review and capture the lessons: what went well and what could have been done better, to take into consideration next time. It’s also all too easy to forget to celebrate the successful outcomes. So make time to stop, reflect, recover, rejoice, replenish and then resume your life with renewed confidence.

Whilst running is my thing and reflects different aspects of my life, we all have our areas of focus and passion. What are your life lessons from running? Drop me a line or add a comment, I’d love to hear from you.


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