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.

Why Wednesdays? – Why I Run, Reason #6: Instant Gratification and Immediate Success

A Note About This Feature:  Why Wednesdays is a Move Eat Create weekly feature determined to turn the mid-week doldrums upside down and celebrate things I love to do and blog about.  Currently, the focus is on running.

I want a lot of things that I can’t have.  I’ll be honest about that.  I want a house and dog.  I want vacations to new and exciting places.  I want pricey street shoes and running shoes.  I want a Garmin.  I want a job that brings me joy EVERY day.  I want a secure, full retirement account.  You get the idea.

Sometimes I think I’m greedy, but the reality is that many of us have lists like this.  We have dreams and goals that may cost more than we can afford right now – and I don’t just mean that solely in the financial sense of the word.  There are other costs that are just as significant.  They include time, relationships, effort, sleep, patience, stress, et cetera.

I don’t expect to get everything on my list of dreams, certainly not quickly.  But I spend a lot of time thinking about them.  I’ve always been focused on the future and have a hard time living in the moment, so to speak.  I’m a planner, a forward thinker, sometimes to my detriment.  This way of being can lead to missing out on much of what is happening right now, what is right here to do, to have, and to enjoy.

Working so hard on dreams that will (hopefully) be realized years down the road, can make it difficult to relish immediate successes, accomplishments, and gratifying moments.  It can be as seemingly inconsequential as being distracted from the pleasure of a delicious home baked cookie because I’m already thinking about what I should do next time to make it better, or as crucial as ignoring the success of the hours I have spent planning and tracking a budget in order to bank $100 for the month because I’m too busy thinking about how much more needs to be saved over the months and years to come.

Plus, I’m impatient.  Like, REALLY impatient.  I curse at stop lights.  I fidget in line at the grocery store.  I just can’t help it.  When you combine my impatience with my constant focus on things far down the road, you can end up with a pretty unhappy Me, if you’re not careful.  So, you can see why sometimes I just really need some instant gratification.  Some sort of success RIGHT NOW.  Running provides that.

So many days I come home from work exhausted and wanting to do nothing more then eat and lounge, but I always still manage to grab my Mizunos and go.  And, I have yet to regret that.  Going for those runs always provides me with such a sense of satisfaction, accomplishment, and that instant gratification.  It still amazes me that even as tired as I felt, I was able to run miles with relative ease.  Nearly immediately I feel more fulfilled and like I have gained something valuable.

I also get this from my long runs.  I’m less tired for those.  My early morning, weekend runs also bring me instant gratification, if in a different way.  After these, in the relatively short span of around 2 hours, I have something show for it.  I have many miles to jot down in my training log, a feeling of peace, an extra partial mile to add to my distance PR, or so on.  It all happens so quickly, when you think about it.  I get up. I set a goal for the morning.  I go out to do it, and I have been successful.  It doesn’t get better then that, really.  There are so few other places in my life that provide me the ability to say that, to accomplish something valuable, so quickly.

So, when I’m feeling impatient and I have little tangible to show for my efforts day in and day out, it’s amazingly comforting to know that all I need to do to feel a bit of instant gratification is to head out onto the pavement and go.

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Previous Entries in This Series:

Why I Run, Reason #5:  Breaking Out of Boxes and Shutting Down “You Can’t . . .”

Why I Run, Reason #4:  My Health, Silly!

Why I Run, Reason #3:  Because I’m Able To

Why I Run, Reason #2:  Birds and Tortillas

Why I Run, Reason #1:  Stress Relief