What Running Has Taught Me About Patience

I am, by nature, a most impatient person.  And, I really mean that.

Traffic lights feel like an eternity to me.  I’m usually convinced that all the other lines at the checkout are moving faster.  When I find something I want, I feel the need to have it RIGHT NOW.  And, I’m still a bit like a kid on my birthday – antsy to open presents and eat cake.

This is just one of the reasons that running has been so good for me.  Running, you see, has taught me about patience like nothing else ever quite has.  It’s true that when you begin running, you do see some changes and results quite quickly.  Those first few months (with practice and training) can fly by with increases in mileage and speed happening all the time.  That 3 mile run becomes 4 miles and that 9:30 pace quickly can drop to 9:00.  But, the truth of the matter is, that running takes a lot of patience.

Sky and Top of Reed Buildings

Building one’s self into a consistent, skilled runner requires persistence and work ethic that have to be sustained over years to truly accomplish specific goals.  I don’t think I ever realized this when I first started running, probably because I just didn’t think about it much.  But, I’ve been at this for nearly two years now and I’ve come to be humbled by and appreciative of the amount of time it takes to improve as a runner.

Sure, anyone can set out to run a 5k, or hell even a marathon, and get through it with only a few months of training.  But, if you want to drop your pace, run injury free, or build stronger muscles for hills, for instance, it takes time.  Serious time.  I read a lot of running related books and this theme is consistent across all of them.  Elite, top notch runners that one might imagine were just born with the gifts of speed and endurance, all talk about this.  They speak of years of training cycles to slice just a minute or two off of their race times and they clearly acknowledge that nothing is more important to improving one’s running ability than simply working hard over long periods of time.

This has been an incredibly important lesson for me to learn.  I expect a lot of myself and I don’t usually give myself much allowance for mistakes or failure.  I tend to believe that I should have accomplished this or that very quickly, without error, faster than others have.  But, when it comes to my running, I know that there are no quick accomplishments – no super fast results.  I head out, day after day and run miles after miles knowing that eventually, over time, it will result in me meeting more of my goals, and I just have to be patient with it.  Because there’s no other way.

street crossing 2 - cropped

Of course, I do see certain types of results all the time.  For example, I’ve been keenly aware lately how much easier it is for me to run longer, more often.  Runs that once left me exhausted often feel fairly run of the mill these days.  I used to be impressed with myself when my weekly mileage totaled 25 and now I easily hit 40 most weeks.  But, it’s been a gradual process with small advances along the way.

Like so much else that running has taught me, I’m trying to remember this lesson in other aspects of my life, as well.  I had a birthday recently.  My birthdays have always been a time when I tend to reflect on what I haven’t yet accomplished.  You know that process, right?  It’s the “I can’t believe I’m already XX years and I haven’t done XX yet!  I’m so far behind where I thought I would be!”  Well, when this birthday came, I certainly had some of those thoughts creep in, but I do like to think I did better with them this year.  And, I like to think that’s yet another thing I owe to my little running regimen.

37 comments on “What Running Has Taught Me About Patience

  1. beckydancer says:

    This totally resonates with me. I think maybe for the first time in my life, when I ran a complete half marathon, I was like, WOW, I actually started from ground zero and accomplished this amazing thing. I never ever ever thought I would do that with running. Patience certainly paid a huge part in it!

    • I’m glad you could relate to this! And, I’m glad to hear that you were totally amazed with yourself after completing your first half marathon – it’s such a great accomplishment!

  2. pauldburton says:

    Very nice article. Running certainly takes time and I tell this to all the new runners I come across; they all seem to be keen on quick wins with couch-to-5k (etc) plans and they nearly all get injuries. Running is for life. You have to take a slow considered path to build the base fitness that will allow you to remain fit and injury free. They tend not to believe me until they fall off the wagon because of an injury…

  3. kennepub says:

    Reading this hit home. Running is definitely one of the few things in my life that easily puts my overly ambitious attitude in check. I have the occasional great runs that push me beyond my limits, but the majority of them are a constant reminder that I must be patient and stay consistent before my pace picks up or I’m able to run longer. Thank you for putting this into words for us.

  4. SoWhatIRun says:

    Beautifully written and I’m so with you on this! Will be sharing this one.

  5. piratebobcat says:

    Great post! I just read an article today by an elite runner about how he became a 120-140 mile a week runner: “It takes patience and time.”

  6. Happy birthday! While I’m not a runner, I see parallels when I think about nutrition and fitness generally. You really benefit being in it for the long haul.

  7. 11315miles says:

    I don’t think I could do 40 a week for very long.

    • A year ago I would have said the same thing. But, that’s where that patience has paid off for me! 🙂 We all have our varied goals, though, and whatever they may be, they take practice and commitment, I think.

  8. Jim Brennan says:

    I absolutely agree. Running teaches you how to live. Once you’re committed, you learn to eat better, sleep more sound, be more attentive, alert, have more patience (as you say) with others, with yourself. I really believe that running teaches you how to live.

  9. Alaina Maeve says:

    I still look back in wonder that I managed my marathon training (and the race) without injury, and got myself up to a consistent 30 miles per week. I am excited to someday reach 40 miles per week, but I know it will be a slowly-but-surely journey over time. 😉

    • I think that’s one of the things I love about how long that slowly-but-surely journey takes. There’s always room for improvement to be had and be seen. It’s a constant, continuing (fun) journey!

  10. PaulSmuts says:

    Very true! When you set yourself a goal in running it usually takes a long time and hard work to achieve. I wrote a post a week or so back titled “Patience is a key to success”. Running certainly helps us with many things that we encounter in our daily life! 🙂

  11. Applebums says:

    Puuuh… thanx for your post! I feel the same.. I’m too hard to myself, and very impatient.. This has cost me an injury in January. Now I’m trying to be more patient and get it slow, but I often forget about my promises. Anyway! We should take it easy and instead of always seeing the burning points of our life, see what we have accomplished yet, i.e. which fire we already put out.

  12. marob23 says:

    Ah – patience is a virtue and I know what you mean, even if I don’t always accept this gracefully.

  13. Joanne says:

    I don’t think you realize how slow of a process becoming a good runner is until you’ve been doing it for a while. I never realized it until I took time off after getting injured and then had to get back into it…whoa was it humbling. But it is nice being able to look back and see progress, even if it is small.

  14. sueslaght says:

    Patience…such an excellent way to think about it. Thanks for stopping by my blog the other day. Getting to this point…seven weeks out from my first marathon…has taken two years of gradually increasing mileage. Your words will help me frame these final long…slow…training runs. ‘Be patient with myself and the process’. Thank you!

  15. colossalgarbage says:

    I can relate! In fact, I just recently blogged about something similar before I even read your post. My Achilles heel seems to be hills. How did you conquer them? Any specific book or article you can direct me to? I’d really appreciate it!

    • I wish I could point you somewhere specific, but I can’t really think of any article or book that truly helped me with hills. I live in a neighborhood that is hilly, so I am forced to run up/down at least hill every time I head out for a run, which I think is really what has helped – just the consistent practice of them. I can offer these form tips that help me – I take short strides up hills, I keep my breathing airway open by making sure that I don’t look down too far/much, and I consciously use my arms and upper body strength to kind of drive and lead the rest of me up. Those things help! Good luck!

      • colossalgarbage says:

        Thanks for the info! During my run tonight, I attacked the hills by using more of my upper body strength, which definitely helped. Now, my arms feel a bit sore, but I’m happy because I’ve increased my pace. Thanks again!

      • Oh, yay! I’m glad that you gave it a try and it helped. You are welcome and I wish you the best with it!

  16. lank81 says:

    I think there are a lot of us like you out there. I have patience in certain areas, usually in areas which don’t pertain to my overall wants or growth. I’m patient with my kids and my wife but when it comes to work, guitar, or something else I think to myself, I’m better than this or this should’ve been done by now.

    I’m also guilty of being a kid more times than not, especially on birthdays and Christmas. I recently sent out my 5 categories Amazon wish lists for Christmas and got gripes from my family. Hey, at least I know what I want, right?

    Running is a patience game as you stated. When I first started I was having issues with shin splints, plantar fasciitis (which still plagues me), and a couple other things as well but once I grew patient and took my time I went from 2 miles consistently per run and now I’m @ 4mi per run with a longer 5-6 mile on Sunday. I’m so proud to be where I’m at..hopefully I can just get back in to my old eating habits.

    • Thank you for sharing that with me! How great to hear about your improvement with running injury free (or I guess almost injury free due to that darn plantar fasciitis). Good luck with your eating habits, too. 🙂

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