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I never liked running. I never understood road races. And I definitely never bought into the culture of marathons. But when my sister-in-law, Megan, asked me to do a race with her and my husband started giving me some tips on how to run better, I found myself all signed up for a 15k – that’s 9.3 miles – in Prospect Park, Brooklyn last Sunday.

So now, on the other side of the race, medal in hand, and having nailed my personal record for distance (with not a shabby pace I might add), color me converted. 15 kilometers taught me (at least) 15 things that I hadn’t thought running would teach me.

1. Doing what you say you’re going to do is powerful. Following through for other people isn’t too hard for a people-pleaser like me – but following through for myself? Now that’s something I fall way short on. When I signed up for this race, there was part of me that didn’t believe I was actually going to do it; so much so that I didn’t really train for it. But when I said I would do it and did it, something registered. Something said, you just stepped into your real power: there is now integrity in the words you say to yourself. Meaning for better or worse, my inner voice carries a lot more power.

2. Creating a community will make you thrive. I never really got the culture of running because it seemed like everyone was so separate. On Sunday, there was nothing like taking the nine mile journey with a partner, and then hearing someone who had just finished their own race yell “You’re almost there – you’re doing it!” Creating a community means you are seen, and when you feel seen, trust me, your legs move a lot faster. Community can be major fuel.

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3. Surprising yourself is way better than protecting yourself. I have a tendency to play it safe. I was scared of this race because of getting injured and not being able to train my clients. Listen, yes, you have to pay attention to your body – but the fact that my legs carried me 2.5 times around Prospect Park’s hills and valleys surprised me and that felt way better than knowing for sure that they would.

4. The journey feels really good. My legs hurt, my hips hurt, my back started to tighten and it felt awesome. I felt the journey in my body, and it felt like I was building my accomplishment step by step. It reminded me about the small victories every day: the little changes that amount to growth, the healthy decisions that turn into a longer and happier life, the laughter that creates a lifetime of joy.

5. Self talk is everything. I could have run the race thinking there’s no way I can do that hill three times. But I ran it thinking, I only have three times to conquer that beast. It kept me light, easy, and more powerful. If I had let one negative thought creep into my skull, I would have walked or worse, not had any fun at all. Metaphors for life, people.

6. Acknowledging accomplishments is part of being present. When Megan and I hit each new mile we gave each other a high five. We might be in the middle of the hill, a long way out from the finish line, or just about to cross it, but we acknowledged how far we had come each time we hit the mile marker. It reminded me that being grateful for all the things that you have already accomplished is the foundation you need to keep accomplishing.

7. When you connect to something bigger than yourself, you grow into it. I felt like this race was so much bigger than me because I had never done one before. Now I get it and I want to do another, and another, and another. It was outside of my comfort zone and because I committed myself to something bigger, my drive, excitement, and energy grew bigger with it.

8. Perfect circumstances are bullshit. When you run next to people twice your age who are lapping you, you realize you have no excuse. The people with terrible form, slow pace, no partner to run with, they are all doing it. No one shows up on race day assuming the circumstances are going to push them past the finish line, they assume they’ll figure out a way and just get it done.

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9. Our bodies are meant to be used. Our bodies are amazing. Testing our limits and going beyond what we think is possible inevitably gives us proof that we can handle so much more than our minds will admit. Think you can’t? Well your body can. Just get your mind out of the way and lace up.

10. Happiness comes from doing, not thinking. Thinking about the race made me nervous and made me want to throw up a little in my mouth. Running the race made me feel powerful, lit up, and strong. Thinking about doing something isn’t the same as showing up to it and committing with your whole heart, mind, and body. And doing that made me feel eight hundred times more awesome than imagining it did.

11. The best time is always now. I barely trained, but did it anyway. Disclaimer: I’m NOT advocating this. I don’t think you should do that. I think you should train your body to handle the challenge. I’m only saying that if there is a choice between going for it or not, go for it. Why wait for anything? Why wait to travel or run or say I love you or just go for what you want? There will never be a better time than now.

12. Crossing the finish line is change. Crossing that finish line changes you into someone who did it. It is proof that your body and mind have the power to accomplish something difficult. Once you have proof, you can never go back.

13. Forgetting yourself is living in your own skin. Sometimes I want so badly to get my validation from outside of myself. Okay, not sometimes, most of the time. I’m working on it, but what I realized during the seventh mile or so is that all that mind chatter melts away when you forget yourself and just do what you’re setting out to do. Anxiety and worry don’t matter much when your legs are burning and you’re inching closer to your goal, you just drop in and get the work done. And usually, the work turns out to be much stronger anyway. Losing yourself is finding yourself.

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14. Working out is about the heart. You can never approach your workouts any other way because it’s just never true. No matter what you do for your body, it is always, always, always connected to your heart.

15. We carry stories in our bodies – so what do you want to tell? Everything is a story. It’s a story to say, I’m not someone who runs. I’m not someone who works out. I’m not someone who can actually be healthy. We make those stories up, and those mind stories turn into body stories. Where do you want to be when you get to the end of The Big Race? Do you want your body to have carried the story of endurance, and belief, and joy, and gratitude, and wonder? Then start telling yourself that story every day, connect it to your heart, and put your feet on the pavement.

What has running taught you?

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Hannah
Hannah
7 years ago

Excellent post! As a former “hater”, I can relate. I thought runners who just paid money to run races for no apparent reason were crazy. Then almost a year ago I found myself overweight and overall unhappy. I started running on a daily basis and found that not only did it help with the weight loss (I lost 30lbs), but overall I was just… happier. WHO KNEW?! I was going through a tough time in my life and running helped me come out the other side healthier and happier than ever. Now any time I have a bad day, I… Read more »

courtney
7 years ago
Reply to  Hannah

Hannah,
Thanks for your kind words! It’s amazing how much our bodies can do when our minds don’t get in the way, right? I’m so inspired by the way you keep pushing forward by cutting your time in half and now upping your distance. And to have your self doubt melt away on top of all your physical accomplishments makes it an even sweeter victory. And ALSO, you look amazing. Keep killin’ it sister! We are now running partners in crime!
xo,
Court

Blair Best
Blair Best
7 years ago

Hi Courtney,I wanted to share my thoughts with you, I don’t know if you remember me but we worked together at MSMT a few summers ago. I am away at school this year in North Carolina at The School Of The Arts studying drama and I have learned something that I never really thought about before. That is: how important your body is as an actress. It is your only instrument on stage and it has to be in top shape all the time. So this year i focused on not falling into the trap of gaining weight and becoming… Read more »

courtney
7 years ago
Reply to  Blair Best

Sweet Blair, Of course I remember you! I’m so excited for you as you step into your own as an actress. You’re absolutely right, keeping your body in shape is so vital to doing the work that’s required of us; it’s also so important to tap into that mental strength as well – gratitude, appreciation for what you have already achieved, generosity, curiosity, excitement, joy – all of that is fuel for the work that we do in the unpredictable career we’ve chosen. It seems like you are in a great place (wish I could have realized what you are… Read more »