At rabbit, we believe that running has the power to teach us valuable lessons about our lives and who. weare. In this RAD Journal, three RAD rabbits discuss what they've learned throughout their running journeys.
Since I started running 10 years ago, it has taught me countless things that I’ve applied to other spaces in my life. The most important lesson that running has taught me is to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. If I don’t stretch myself outside of my comfort zone, I will never see growth.
I look at my comfort zone as a target with three rings: the inner ring being my comfort zone, the middle ring being my stretch or growth zone, and the outer ring being the risk or danger zone. Every time I step outside my comfort zone, I really have to think differently about myself and what I’m capable of.
In running, my comfort zone might be how I feel when running on my easy days, as if I can go on forever. And that’s how my running journey started. Every run was at the same pace, never challenging myself to push harder. In my professional life where I work in healthcare quality improvement, my comfort zone as a typically introverted individual might be an observer and listener. As I’ve grown as a runner, I’ve also grown professionally, reaching a position as a Program Manager of projects where I’m required to facilitate change and coach others on improvement. This has required me to reach my stretch zone and focus on areas that I know I could make improvements. Maybe that was taking the leap to hire a running coach and push myself in workouts or attend a training on succeeding as an introverted leader. These were steps outside of my comfort zone to allow myself to grow into the person, professional, and runner that I want to be.
And then there’s the dreaded danger zone. No one ever wants to be there, right? But this is where the excitement happens. This is the zone that should be scary. This is the zone where I sit shaking in my running shoes at the thought of it. As Bob Proctor said, “Set a goal to achieve something that is so big, so exhilarating that it excites you and scares you at the same time.” For me, the goal of trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon seems like an impossible dream, but one that has ignited a fire in me that I will stretch to the danger zone to attempt to achieve it. Professionally, that danger zone has been speaking in front of hundreds at a conference. If I don’t immerse myself in that danger zone, how will I ever know what else I may be good at? This has also taught me that it’s ok to fail. It’s ok to not be great at everything. But it is about not being afraid to try.
So, like running, life is about getting outside of your comfort zone and every person’s comfort zone may be different. Life presents us with opportunities to stretch and take risks almost every day. Running has taught me that it’s essential to identify those opportunities and cultivate a mindset of belief and positivity to endure the stretch and risk that may come.
It’s 4:30am. The sun isn’t up, the whole family is sleeping, and your alarm is going off. “Maybe I’ll just turn off the alarm and sleep in,” you think. “I could just skip this week and do a long run next week, right? One missed run is no big deal.” But, you push those thoughts aside, roll out of your comfortable bed, get dressed in the dark, and get out the door to run for the next few hours.
“Remember the feeling you get from a good run is far better than the feeling you get from sitting around wishing you were running.” – Sarah Condor. This is one of those running quotes that I think of a lot. If there is one thing running has taught me, it is how to get past that mental block of really not wanting to do something, but getting it done anyway. Whether that something is emptying the diaper genie right before bed when you don't even have the energy to floss your teeth because you know it will smell in the morning, completing that annoying house task you’ve been putting off, working a little harder on something at work even though it isn’t really in your job description, or getting out the door at the crack of dawn for a 20 mile run. I know that the feeling of getting whatever it is completed will make me feel far better than putting it off and wishing I had done it later.
Sure, some days our bodies are beat down mentally or physically and a rest day from running is absolutely necessary. Sometimes it is the better choice to lounge on the couch at night rather than mopping the floors after the kids go to bed, even though you can see the dirt on the bottom of your nice white socks. Running has taught me the discipline and self-awareness to know when to push through a little fatigue and lack of motivation versus when to call it a day and start again tomorrow. Rather than feeling guilty about those decisions, I can look at them as the right choice for that moment and know that my discipline learned from running will help me move forward. Let’s be honest, do we necessarily always get super excited about every single run? Although it may seem that way when scrolling through social media, for me, the answer is definitely not, especially during the grind of a long training cycle. Do we run anyway and feel better physically and mentally for it – you bet.
I was not a patient person. When I set my mind on something, I went all-in, taking action and wanting to be done quickly. Setting a lofty running goal helped me realize that sometimes we need to be patient if we want to achieve big things.
In October 2014, I visited Boston for the first time. I was a 2:15 half-marathoner with no intentions of running a full-marathon, but I couldn’t go to Boston without visiting the Boston Marathon finish line. I stood there admiring the faded paint on the road and the next thing I knew, I was picturing myself crossing the finish line and made a promise to myself that one day I would.
I was working towards my MBA and my husband and I planned to start a family right after that, but I never forgot about the promise I made to myself. I even kept a photo I took of the finish line as a reminder. I continued to run a few days per week and in 2017, I whittled my half-marathon time down to 2:05. I found myself getting more disciplined with running and knew it was time. A few weeks later I signed up for my first marathon and hired a running coach. I was doing what I always did: going all-in and taking action, but this time I was going to need patience.
I finished my first marathon in 3:57. It wasn’t a Boston Qualifier, but I didn’t expect it to be. I completed my first marathon in under four hours and that was a milestone to celebrate! A year later, in the middle of being laid off from my job of 13.5 years, I ran the California International Marathon in 3:38. It wasn’t a BQ, but I had just achieved a 19-minute PR during one of the most stressful times of my life – another huge accomplishment!
2020 rolled around and I was in the best shape of my life. I signed up for a local marathon on December 13th, which happened to be one of the few races that wasn’t cancelled. My fitness indicated that I could run a big BQ. I arrived at the start line and was in line for the bathrooms when I received a text from a friend telling me she was sorry about my grandmother. What did she mean she was sorry? Then it hit me…something bad happened. My grandmother had passed away in the wee hours of the morning, but my family wasn’t planning to tell me until the race was over because they knew I’d be devastated. I didn’t run that day but remained patient and knew that my BQ would come.
I regrouped and signed up for a March 2021 marathon in Greenville, SC. My fitness wasn’t quite where it was a few months earlier, but this time I was running in memory of my grandmother and let my heart carry me to the finish line. I ran 3:32:21, which was enough to get my first Boston Qualifier and a nice buffer to go with it. My patience had paid off!
Two Boston Marathons later, I’ve learned to set long-term goals and be patient in achieving them. I keep my eye on the prize, but I stop to celebrate the small milestones along the way. It’s important to remember that even with occasional setbacks, you are still moving forward. This mindset helped me get through my job change, helps me coach my daughter through some of the challenges she experiences, and is helping me work towards my other long-term personal and professional goals.