The famed Eric Liddell was quoted in the Oscar-winning film, Chariots of Fire, “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure”. To which I always say, when I run, I learn perseverance.
I haven’t always been a runner. But when I picked it up some years ago, I found that there were many life lessons to be learnt from running, lessons so profound and experiential that only runners get it.
Excuses don’t cut it
When I signed up for my first full marathon, I was all hyped up and raring to start training. As the race date drew nearer and the distance for each run became longer, that enthusiasm started waning. If you had known me personally, you would know how I’m always coming up with excuses not to run. ‘I’ve had a long day’, ‘I’m feeling a little unwell’, ‘it looks like it’s going to rain’ – these were my favourite excuses. My running partner had to do quite a bit of convincing and coercing so that I don’t skip the training sessions. Getting myself out there with my running shoes was a big achievement in itself.
Has that ever happen to you?
Whether it’s a desire to start doing voluntary work, achieving your new fitness goal, or even finishing that dreaded project at work, it would always be easy to put it off with some excuses. Some of them may even be valid, but no matter – excuse is just another word for inaction.
You Can’t Do It Alone
There is a particular stretch of road that I love running on. But at night when we run, sometimes the street lamps would be out and we would be running in complete darkness. In the dark, it’s hard not to feel creepy and uncertain of where I’m heading. Yet what kept me going was hearing someone else’s pounding on the gravel, knowing that I wasn’t alone. The same can be said of life. When things ahead look daunting and uncertain, we are afraid and don’t want to step forward. But knowing that someone is with us and walking alongside us makes all the difference, especially if some of us are on an off-beaten track. That support from people around us may seem trivial but don’t underestimate it; it is the force that keeps us keeping on.
Discipline = Success
There are no two ways about it. Discipline paves the way to success. Often, discipline requires sacrifice. Saturday mornings are the best time for long runs but it is the only day I can sleep in. Imagine my struggle every Saturday – where most people are snoozing, there I am trudging out at 6.30am to do my 3-hour run. Besides sacrificing sleep, you also need to deal with missing out on that dinner gathering, seeing less of your family, and critics who do not identify with what you are doing. Discipline is no walk in the park. Yet when you are out there clocking up the miles, you know that this is going to be good for you and this will make the final race so much easier.
When I run, I think and self-talk all the time. It’s true when they say endurance sport is all about mind over body. Call it what you will, but for me, running symbolises the race in life that is set out for us. There will always be the excuses, obstacles and falls that we encounter in the race, but what matters is you never, ever give up. Just finish the race – it will be worthwhile.