Sometimes, it just ain’t pretty

Sometimes running is amazing. My legs and lungs feel strong, the miles fly by in a blur, the sun shines softly, the breeze caresses me. Creative thoughts flow into my mind and stay with me as I go about my day, getting everything on my to do list accomplished. I love those runs.

They are very, very rare.

Some runs are real dogs. Not the cute, cuddly kind that you snuggle with on a cold afternoon. No, the big, drooly kind that flings himself on you for a hug and a sloppy kiss right after he rolls in roadkill. Or, the snarly, vicious one who runs at you out of nowhere when you’re minding your own business, and causes you to have an unintentional and life-threatening PR on a training run.

Today’s long run was a dog. I finished it, but it wasn’t pretty. Everything hurt, my tummy wasn’t happy we were running eight miles, and everybody I saw was making it look easy and effortless. Yep, this one just sucked.

I posted this quote by Marko Cheseto on my Old Broads Run Facebook page this morning:

“Running is the easiest thing in the world. You just put one foot in front of the other and make sure you are moving forward.”

What I love about that quote, what makes it amazing and repeatable is that Marko was a world class track athlete at the University of Alaska, when after a series of sad events in his life, he lost both his legs. After quite a struggle, mentally and physically, he was fitted with running blades, and is, once again, on the rise in the world of running. His story is in the February, 2014 edition of Runner’s World, and is a must read.

I’ve never been a world class athlete. Truth is, I never will be. And that’s okay. My goal in running (and in life) is to be the absolute best that I can be, to find that elusive mental toughness I seek. I don’t run to win races. If that was all I sought, I would have quit a long time ago. I also don’t run to impress anyone. I run because there is a deep-seated need in me to find my best, and I’ve learned that running is one of the pieces of my puzzle.

Even bad runs offer me answers. I guess I should say especially the bad ones. Because those amazing runs, the ones that are effortless and easy, really just soothe my soul, they don’t teach me anything. Sometimes a good soul soother is exactly what I need, and I know that I’ll have those runs again. But, mostly, I need lessons. Lessons in mental toughness, lessons in enduring. Lessons in making the best of a bad situation, lessons in problem solving. Running teaches me all those things, and more.

I’m not mentally tough. I look at Marko Cheseto, and I shake my head at how soft I really am. This man has no legs. Yet, he runs with grace and perseverance. He puts one foot in front of the other and makes sure he is moving forward.

Life is full of challenges. Some big, some small. The way we handle those challenges defines us. It tells the world (and ourselves) who we are and where we’re going.

Sometimes, like on today’s dog of a run, we just have to take a deep breath, put our head down, and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Because running is easy. It’s life that’s tough.

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