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.
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.
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.