If you read my post from last Friday, you know I had a tough weekend. My grandfather died last Wednesday after a 7 year battle with Parkinson’s Disease. I’m not even a super religious person, but I have no doubt that my grandfather is running around in heaven right now and talking up a storm, which are two things he struggled with at the end of his life. I know his death brought him release from his pain and I’m grateful for that. But watching my family suffer last week was something that I was not prepared for, and I woke up each day worried for my grandma, aunts, and especially my dad.
As the funeral day drew closer, I realized that I was scared to go through it. I knew it was going to be such a long, sad day filled with so many tears and difficult moments, and I just wanted to skip all the pain and get to the end where we could move on and celebrate my grandfather’s life. As I went to bed on Friday night I came to the shocking realization that I had the same nervous butterflies and dread that I get the night before a race. If you’ve never read one of my race recaps, I’ll let you know right now that I get extremely nervous before races and start worrying about every little thing that could go wrong. I obsess and worry until the race starts, and then I push myself through the pain of running until I’ve reached the finish line. Don’t get me wrong – I love running and I love races, but you’ve got to admit that pushing yourself to run fast hurts! So when I felt that familiar dread the night before the funeral, I did what I always do before a race: I take a deep breath and tell myself that it is going to hurt at certain points, but I’m going to get through it.
I don’t want to compare a funeral to a race, so let me make that very clear. I think I just knew that I would be in so much pain and I had to get through it somehow. I’m not going to go into the sad details here, but the funeral was one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through and I probably used about 30 tissues by the end of it. But once I had changed out of my black clothes and arrived at our big family dinner that night, I was feeling much better. Sure I was tired, my eyes hurt from crying, and I felt so drained – but I had survived the pain and was surrounded by aunts, uncles, and cousins who could share funny stories about my grandpa and make me laugh again. The pain of the funeral is slowly fading and I’m feeling like I’m on the way to recovery (although it’s a shame there’s no foam roller that can make your heart feel better faster!). So if you’re reading this and you’re suffering, remember this fact: you are a runner, and it’s making you a stronger person. Why?
- You are used to pushing yourself through difficult feelings like pain, self doubt, and fear. You do it on long runs for hours, and sometimes you do it on really tough short runs too. You’re practically a professional at dealing with pain on a regular basis!
- You know how to distract yourself when you’re struggling. How else could you push through difficult long runs, or keep running for hours?
- You know how to set goals and create plans to reach them. Even if your goal is simply getting through one tough day of running, you still know how to prepare yourself for getting through it!
- You understand the importance of recovery. After putting your body through difficult things, you know that you need to rest, refuel, and recharge.
- You know when to take rest days. You can’t work your body constantly and you know that, so you schedule time for stretching and relaxing so that you can wake up the next day and feel stronger than ever.
All of those things can apply to difficult life situations as well. Runners are sometimes called crazy, but I think they’re just preparing their bodies and minds to take on difficult obstacles in life as well as on the road. So next time you feel like you can’t handle something, remember that you’re a a runner! You run 13.1 miles for fun before most people even finish breakfast! You’re a stronger person because you run.
Do you think running or your workout of choice makes you a stronger person? Does running help you cope with difficult times?