by Kristoffer Pedlar
For me, running is a passion and an exercise in mental health. It has taught me many things about the world and myself. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned from running.
I’ve learned a lot about perseverance. Running long distances takes time. During the training runs for my first marathon, I quickly understood that old adage: “it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.” It takes weeks of training to prepare your body, heart and mind for the pounding that 42.2K requires of you. This is an understanding I have carried with me into the rest of my life. When things are at their toughest, I know I have the will and determination to get through by putting one foot in front of the other.
I’ve learned how to be alone. Runners spend much of their time without anyone else. Lonely training runs at the break of dawn, a quick 5K on a lunch break, and on race day you’re often left without companionship as you set off in search of your own personal goal. When I run I often get lost in my thoughts. I remind myself that the world is a beautiful place and that I’m a lucky guy in the grand scheme of things.
I’ve learned how incredible it can be to run with other people. The running community is one of the best in the world. It is supportive, inclusive and knowledgeable. I have met some wonderful people through run clubs, clinics, cross-training and Facebook groups. They help pass the time on long runs, offer words of encouragement when I’m feeling down and are there to cheer me on at the finish. When you are just starting out, these are the people that help get you through, keep you focused on your goal and make it all fun. I’ve learned how to manage my feelings
When I started running, I was in the midst of a breakup. Running offered me time and space to work through my emotions. It helped me work through that unfortunate period in my life in a healthy way and the exercise helped me feel good about myself. When it feels like there is nothing right in the world, when I’m overwhelmed or feeling helpless, I lace up my shoes and go for a run. My problems aren’t always solved afterwards, but I feel better and more prepared to take whatever next step is needed.
I have learned that anything is possible if you put in the work. In no other sport will you see such diversity in its competitors. Every time I line up for a race I am amazed at the diversity of ages, races, cultures, sizes and body types. In running, it’s not about your physique, your strength or your past accomplishments. Instead, it’s about your preparation. And that knows no age, gender, race or culture. This lesson was confirmed while I was running the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon a couple of years ago. Around the 16K mark, I was struggling when a much older gentleman passed me with ease. I remember feeling very humbled, surprised even. But he had trained for the race, just like I had. Great runners don’t come in specific packages. It’s one of the best things about running.
Finally, I learned that everyone deserves a medal. I recently got into a debate with a friend over whether it is wrong that every participant at races gets a medal, regardless of time. It really got me thinking. I came to the conclusion that everyone who runs a race is running for a reason. It might be for a specific time, a personal best, a milestone, to qualify for something, or even to place. Others run for health: they’re trying to lose weight, lower their blood pressure or usher in a new health regimen. Some are running their first-ever race, some are running their last. Some are trying something outside of their comfort zone, checking off a bucket list item or following through on a dare. People run for lost family members, to raise money for charity, or after their own medical treatments. To me, it doesn’t matter if you accomplish your goal or not. Whether you walk the whole way or run a blazing new time, it matters that you were there, that you did the best you could. So yes, everyone does deserve a medal.