Thursday, July 29, 2010

It’s OK to Eat the Cheese Steak: Or the Top Five Lessons Running Has Taught Me About Life

Lesson 1: Take nothing for granted. I’ve been a runner for 11 years. Although, I never considered myself a runner until I began to run races (folly, I know that now). There have been occasions when I’d come home (or back to the office) after a run, and begin to rip the run apart because it wasn’t long enough, fast enough, etc….That is until I sustained a running injury, (patellar tendonitis plus piriformis syndrome) that caused me to have to step out of my sneakers for roughly three months. It was three months of agony for me (and my loved ones, I was no treat to live with). But during that time, I learned the art of appreciation. When my doctor OK’d me to run two miles at a stretch as I regained my strength, I was ecstatic. Being sidelined made me realize that every day I can lace up my shoes, and get out and run, is a gift. I know longer disparage my run or the effort I put into getting it done.

Lesson 2: Don’t contemplate your bruises. I was training with the DC Road Runners for the SunTrust National Marathon in 2009. We were out on a 14-mile run in 30 degree weather. At about seven miles in, we approached the top of a hill. I was fatigued and my form was sloppy. On the descent, I lost my footing and went crashing down into the gravel. My right knee screamed in agony. As I pushed myself up from the ground, I decided that I had no other choice but to pull myself together and finish the run. So I didn’t even look down at my knee, because I knew I would not be able to complete the run if I actually saw my knee. I felt the sting of pain, but I could still bend it. When we arrived back at the Georgetown Running Company, I looked down at my ripped running tights and I saw my bruised and bloodied knee. I celebrated my ability to overcome my bruises with a new pair of running tights and a renewed sense of my own personal strength.

Lesson 3: Celebrate your body. I started running to lose the baby fat I’d gained with the birth of my first daughter 11 years ago. I’d gained 26 lbs while I was pregnant, expanding from 144 lbs to 170 lbs. I’ve never had the lean, lithe body of a runner. I’m built more like Serena Williams, much to my husband’s delight, with strong powerful quads and an impressive glute to boot. Yet, I used to yearn for what I considered the true “runner’s body.” Eleven years later, I love my strong, able body that has allowed me to complete countless races, including three marathons, since 2007.

Lesson 4: You never know who is watching. Today I broke down and ate a cheese steak hoagie for lunch. While I was standing in the café, mentally berating myself for my lapse in food judgment, I saw a woman who I used to regularly see at the gym where I’d change clothes before heading out for a run. She looked fabulous. I remembered when she first started working out—her hard work was evident. I told her about my guilty lunch selection. She told me, “It’s OK to eat the cheese steak. You’ll run it right off.” She further stated that she missed seeing me at the gym (I change at a new gym these days) and that I had been the inspiration for her to start running.

Lesson 5: You can do more than you ever thought you could. Three years ago, if someone would’ve told me that I’d be a marathoner, I would’ve thought they were nuts. I had just finished my first 5K, and while I thought perhaps I should try a 10K, a marathon was another matter altogether. Yet in 2008, I found myself at the start line of the Marine Corps Marathon. Crossing the finish line 26.2 miles later was one of the greatest moments in my life. Although I was spent and every part of my body ached, I already knew I wanted to do it again. From that moment on, I have never doubted my ability to achieve ANY goal in life.

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