"Run often and run long, but never outrun your joy of running."
I came across this quote on Twitter last night, and it really struck me. It rings true for running, that is for sure. As a runner, to improve, to get faster, to have endurance for longer miles, you need to be consistent, and run often. When people ask me how to start running, or how to get better, the first thing I encourage them to do is run consistently. But if you always run three miles, you will always be able to run three miles. Running long, once a week is a second important aspect to improving as a runner. It teaches your body how to keep moving on that mile past tired. You know, when you run three miles and you're exhausted but you have one more mile to get home? Running long teaches you how to run on tired legs.
Running often, and running long requires diligence. It requires persistence, commitment, and running through good weather and bad weather. It requires lacing up your shoes when all you want to do is curl up on the couch in front of Netflix. It requires sacrificing free time and Saturday morning for long runs.
In 2011, I set out to run 100 miles a month. My friend Sarah and I decided we would commit to running 1200 miles that year, to improve as runners, to get in better shape, to run faster, to run longer. Each month we diligently tracked our miles. I ran through rain and snow, I logged countless hours on the treadmill, and I was determined to meet my goal each month. At the end of the year, we did run 1200 miles. We accomplished what we had set out to do. But running had become a chore. Something I had to do, instead of something I wanted to do. It became an obligation, something to check off a list. In turn, I lost the joy that I previously found in running.
Running is my thing. It is the one thing that allows me to reset, to recharge, to lay my anxieties and stresses of the day on that pavement and then run over top of it, refusing to pick it up again. Running clears my head, it gives me an outlet for the anxiety I cary with me on a day to day. Running allows me time to process, to reflect, to talk to God, to ask Him for strength to carry me through my run and my day.
What I was reminded of yesterday was that I don't have to run. Its not the only means of exercise to stay healthy. My identity isn't in being a runner. I lost running once in my life, when I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, and I lived through it. I run because it gives me great joy. And everyday before I go out for my run, I want to remember that it isn't something I have to do. Its something I get to do for my emotional, mental, and physical well being. I am not going to outrun my joy I find in running because I realize now, running is a true gift I have been blessed with. Against all odds, in despite of a chronic illness that attacks and destroys my joints, running is my joy.