I’m a terrible runner. I’m extremely slow and horribly awkward, bouncing all over the sidewalk. I also don’t enjoy running, probably because I’m so awful at it, but also because every run begins and ends in the same place. You’re running just to turn around and run back to where you started. It feels very pointless and it’s disheartening.
Last summer I trained for a 5K (you heard that right, I had to train for a 5K) and I dreaded every run. I thought somewhere along the way I’d learn to enjoy running. Nope. Quite the opposite, actually. Whatever joy I had about running was quickly put to rest by the reality of incessantly pounding my feet into pavement as I push myself literally nowhere.
But I still run (sometimes). Not because I enjoy it (I’m not a maniac) but because it’s good for me.
There is one thing I enjoy about running, however. It’s this: no matter how hard it gets, or how much it hurts, the best thing you can possibly do is keep going.
I’ve fallen into the deceptive trap that is stopping mid-run for a rest. It’s nice, and you get a few minutes of relief, but when you try to start back up – hooo boy, lookout. I quickly learned that stopping only makes the run 10x more difficult.
It’s near impossible to start back up again, and once you do your muscles fill with fire like you never felt before you stopped. Yes, you were in some pain, but you were mostly numb. Once you stop, you begin to feel every muscle in your legs and every breath gets much heavier.
All this to say stopping for a rest only makes the pain worse and the final stretch more difficult. It seems counter-intuitive at first, but during a run, your best plan of action is always this: just keep going.
I feel like life is a lot like running. Life is one long race, sure. But it’s also a series of many, many races. When you’re in the middle of a race, life can sometimes get tough. It can get hard to pull yourself out of bed in the morning, (although I’ve always felt that getting out of bed felt much more like pushing yourself out than pulling). It can get difficult to love others, and near impossible to find some patience within you. I’ve been there. I was there yesterday, and let me tell you, I prayed and prayed for patience when I had none to give.
But through all the grogginess that can be everyday life, the best plan of action is always to just keep going.
It doesn’t make sense in the moment. When you’re down to the final “K” of your 5K, it can be very tempting to start walking. It can feel like taking a break is not only the best option but the only option. But it’s not. It’s the worst option. Or, rather, it isn’t an option.
Looking back on my 5K, I’m sure glad I didn’t stop for a quick ‘rest’. First, the final stretch would have been hell. But second, at the end of the day, I don’t think I would’ve been satisfied with myself. I would’ve looked at that medal they handed me and thought “I don’t deserve this. I didn’t run a 5K”.
Sometimes, in life, it can feel like giving up or stopping for a quick break is the best plan of action. Whenever I think that I just start thinking about that 5K. I think about how, when I was down to the end, what felt like forever was really just, like, half a mile. Maybe less. And I think about life the same way I thought about running that 5K… just keep going.