Running for Life

IMG_3931What does it mean to “Run for Life?” When I first started running, I heard people who described themselves as ‘lifelong runners.’ I really had no clue what they meant by this particular term, or why they might apply it to themselves. It didn’t really occur to me to spend much time thinking about it either. Until now. I recently found myself using the term to describe myself and my running career. I’ve been at it for 14 years, run countless races, 20-something half marathons, and Columbus will be my ninth full marathon. I haven’t even thrown in the few ultras I’ve done.

I don’t say any of this to brag. I am writing about it because it dawned on me that life moves really quickly and it is so easy to find ourselves at a point where we forget why we do this every day.

Currently I volunteer as a pace coach for Marathoners in Training (MIT). A couple of weeks ago I had an important conversation with a participant who was returning to running after having some time off. A position that most of us will find ourselves in at one point or another. This particular participant was expressing concern over the fact that her pace had slowed considerably. Should she be worried? Was she doing something wrong?

There is often a fear that if we don’t return to running as the same athlete we were before we left that something is wrong. This experience can be very frustrating and unnerving. It can be easy to start feeling sorry for ourselves. I know exactly what this feels like. I’ve felt this more than a few times and faced the internal struggle of why I keep going back out there.

When I first started MIT more than 10 years ago, my training pace was a 10:30. At one point, I was running my long runs at a 9:30 pace. I won a few age group awards at local races. I really felt like I could call myself a runner. Soon after I started graduate school and my pace slowed to an 11:30. Next thing I know I am coaching the 13:00’s and struggling to get my tempo pace below 11:30.

The glorious thing about being a ‘lifelong’ runner is the opportunity to watch ourselves grow and challenge ourselves in new ways. Maybe one season we pick up the pace a bit, but another we just need to hang on for dear life. Running mimics real life. It’s easy to get lost in the day to day and forget to enjoy the time we’ve been given.

On your journey to chase down your dreams, don’t overlook the value of the ride. In just a few months you will be handed your medal and a bottled water and you’ll feel accomplished. But don’t forget how you got there. Savor the details, the runs, the sweat, and tears. The journey is what makes the race so great.

This year I have set a goal for myself. I want to enjoy the journey more. Sure, I would love to come in under 5 hours and maybe I will. Mostly, I just want to savor the experience. Life moves fast and moments are often lost to us. I used to run for the medal or the shirt, but I find myself running more for the enjoyment of being out there daily.

Embrace the run, embrace the journey, and embrace your life!

About the author: Shannon McLoughlin Morrison has her Ph.d. in Education Policy and Leadership. She is an avid runner and coach for Marathoners in Training. She also has two pet house rabbits.

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