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Finding Running Inspiration

-Cara Benson

Do you ever struggle on your running journey? Some days, just lacing up and getting out the door can be a challenge. Cold, rainy days and fatigue can tax my motivation. When that happens, I turn to what inspires me. These four motivators can get me to the pavement no matter what.

1. My Physical Health

Getting in better shape is one of the top reasons people start running. Running burns calories like crazy and improves your heart health. It’s a great leg and core workout that doesn’t require a gym membership. Reminding myself of all the health benefits that running provides is a great way to get out the door.

2. My Mental Health

Did you know that running is viewed as a form of meditation? That’s great news for people who don’t like to sit still. The mental break that running provides leads to lots of great benefits. It can relieve stress, help with problem-solving, and even help fight depression and anxiety. Keep in mind the euphoric feeling you get once you complete a run, too. You can only achieve it if you push yourself!

3. A Great Charity

When I’m “too tired” to run, I think about those who can’t. Signing up for a race that benefits others reminds me of how small my problems are in comparison. So many organizations use races to fundraise for worthy causes. Participating in these races is such a simple, fun way to do my part in giving back. Bonus: giving back feels as good as running!

4. PR Goals

I can’t run my fastest mile or farthest distance if I’m sitting on the couch. Setting a goal to keep in mind gives me purpose. From not wanting to break a run streak to qualifying for the Boston Marathon, my goals get me out the door on the hardest days.

 

What’s your best advice for someone struggling to hit the pavement? What motivates you to run?

Perspective

By Nicholas Shaw

As a college English major who has been running for almost eight years it feels strange to finally write this, since this will be my first publication regarding my own experience with running. Reading and running go hand and hand for me, since even though I have always maintained intense feelings regarding running, they have always been visceral, too intense to coherently reflect on in writing. What I have lacked in the ability to reflect on my own running, I found solace in seeking the wisdom of others who were able to. That was because I have always equated my self-worth with my running performance, and for a while I truly did not know what I was worth. Though, I was not an avid reader until more recently in my running career (around the time I became an English major), reading would have a monumental effect regarding my relationship with running.

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When hearing about the great runners of history, such as Steve Prefontaine or Emil Zatopek their stories are often romanticized. They are immortalized and turned into larger than life figures. I feel romanticizing great runners will always have its place in the sport, making way for lucrative films and attracting newbies to the sport, but there are also ill effects from it. As glorious as winning a race seems, as satisfying as shedding a few pounds can be, or as exhilarating completing your first marathon may feel, there is a universal truth to running and that is applicable to life itself. Running, just like life- fucking hurts.nick pack

The pain brought on by running does not only manifest in physical form, there are perhaps even greater mental and emotional strains of it. What initially drew me to running was a natural sense of work ethic and competitive nature, but what really sucked me in were the emotional effects of what racing provides. My first couple of years of running I would have natural highs and lows, but nothing destructive. However, as each year passed my relationship with running became increasingly distorted. Whenever a race would go well I would feel a grand sense of elation, even a feeling of ecstasy, but when the opposite occurred I could not even stand to look in the mirror. Running is a sport where the accessibility of others’ times makes it very easy to compare yourself to others and see how many people are faster than you, which can be a recipe for self-doubt.

For the first two and a half years of my college running career, I hated running for the most part. I worked tirelessly, but only to chase times and accomplishments. Running would stress me out to the point I would break out into hives, where I could not sleep at night, and even gave me such bad stomach issues I could not properly digest food. It was truly torture; I would have mornings where I would wake up and immediately think “You are so worthless. How have you worked so hard at something for years and are still terrible”-what a great way to start the day. Even with all of this strife for some reason I kept on running. For the longest time I thought I was running myself into this mess, yet little did I know I was running through it.

Running does not define my worth but it is how I figured out what I am worth. By running I want to show that all the highs, lows, joy, beauty, and pain that comes with life is worth charging towards.

During my junior year of college I was ready to quit running. I had felt way too much humiliation, disappointment, and pure shame towards myself to the point where I was worried about my health. At the end of my indoor season one of my friends suggested that I read Scott Jurek’s memoir Eat and Run, I read heavily for class, but I never thought of reading to improve my running. So I thought why not what do I have to lose? Instantly I was hooked, Jurek was able to present running in a way that I had never previously thought about it. I also started heavily changing my diet and just running for the sake of running, not simply for accolades. I started improvingly rapidly, as a runner and my mental outlook in general. Then of course life threw another obstacle at me. On Thursday night two nights before my first outdoor race of my junior year I came home to find out devastating news (which I cannot go into detail out of respect to those involved). This brought a level of uncertainty to my life that I would never have been able to previously deal with, but with the perspective I had gained from Jurek’s memoir, I used running to get me through it all.

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Following that night were the most tumultuous two months of my life, every day was marked with uncertainty in most areas of my life, but stark clarity in one, running. Running was my solace and it was fueled by my passion to read. After reading Jurek’s memoir I began delving into more literature regarding running, gaining knowledge and perspective on various individuals’ relationships with running. I felt like I related a lot to Jurek since he described himself as an intense curious person who would often think deeply into things. However the key difference between us both was Jurek used his overactive mind to help his running, while my mind often hindered me. But with simply seeing the words from Jurek’s perspective I was able to make my weakness my greatest asset. Instead of just taking things for face value I would look up how every single thing I did affected my running, which ended up helping me become much more attuned to the present moment. In reading Jurek’s memoir I simply aimed to become a better runner, but I had no idea the profound effect it would have on me as a person.

For the longest time I thought I was running myself into this mess, yet little did I know I was running through it.

I ended up having the best season of my life and have become a far better runner ever since, but none of that is why I am writing this. Ultimately I now know that times or places or accolades do not matter, but rather perspective. As I transition from leaving college to the “real world” there are many potential doubts that have arisen about my future, but I know as long as I have running I always have one constant to look forward to. There was always a deep-seeded reason I was pursing running, even with all of the pain that I put myself through. Running does not define my worth but it is how I figured out what I am worth. By running I want to show that all the highs, lows, joy, beauty, and pain that comes with life is worth charging towards. Something inside me knew this all along; all it took was a little perspective to realize it. Hopefully this helped give you some.

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Resources:

Scott Jurek’s Book Website

College Transition Huffington Post

College Transition to the Workplace

 

On Addiction

I remember the first time I went running; I must have been around 12 or 13, and I felt ecstatic as I trotted around town, crossing out of my neighborhood and into flower shops, stores, and the city streets.  It was magical.  As a little thing (maybe 6 or 7?) I would run, but it was mostly racing the boys on my block.  I would start at the top of the hill, arms in the ready position, as they stood atop their bikes; I wanted them to have the advantage.  I wanted to win.  

As I got older, things began to change.  I started to get good, in a tangible way.  It wasn’t just winning, it involved this exponential growth that is usually not seen in 5th grade girls.  As I got older, the pressure weighed more heavily on my shoulders, as coaches began to know who I was and I started to get respect for simply having a number next to my name.  But it wasn’t their fault, that this pressure got to me; I am co-dependent.  I have trouble living for myself.  If I were to be completely honest, I have no idea how to live for myself.  When I do well at something, it is either a result of an addiction or the result of co-dependence.  When I fail, it is usually because I make excuses, justifying my inner demons and putting them on things bigger than just “human error”.  If I am weak, then I am dispensable, penetrable, and worthless.  In all reality, though, these are things I think about myself, regardless of an outcome.  

Any self-confidence I have developed, has been the result of addictive behaviors or living for others.  It is not deep.  It is not strong.  It is not going to cut it any more.

Racing is this beautiful thing, where we are forced to deal with our inner demons and see what is happening on the inside, manifest in tangible results on the outside; for me, over the past half-year, my running has spiraled.  My races have been getting worse.  And I want to sit here and throw a pity party for myself, explaining that I am hurting on the inside, I think I am worthless, and I am afraid of racing because of how I abused it in the past.  Because, if I am pitied, at least no one will attack me.  And so begins the co-dependent behavior again; I feel I need approval for my shortcomings, so at least I can sleep at night.

But it never comes.  It will never come.    

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My favorite road

I haven’t recognized myself in a long time; it is a far cry from the little girl that would go out and shoot a basketball for hours, just because she loved it.  The one that would spend a whole day locked in her room, just to improve her handwriting.  The one that would never clean my room, because I was more concerned with making sure my stuffed animals had a book to read while I went to school.  As the addictive behaviors grew, so too I choked out who I was and who I am meant to be.  Living without those things, whether it be a bottle, a scale, or a number, means I have to deal with my emotions and who I really am.  And that is SO hard.  REALLY dealing with who we are, and living for ourselves- I am not sure I know how to do that.  

Any self-confidence I have developed, has been the result of addictive behaviors or living for others.  It is not deep.  It is not strong.  It is not going to cut it any more.

My racing has been evidence of that.  I am standing on start lines and thinking “I don’t want to be here”.  I hit the pain part of the race and I fall apart, because I am terrified of myself.  “I don’t think I can do it and if I can, does that mean I am going back to my addictive behaviors?  Well, it doesn’t matter, because I am worthless anyway.”  And I want to sit here and pray someone will message me, Mitch will give me a talk, or God will send a rainbow showing me “Why yes, you are worthy!  You are great! And you CAN do this” but even when it does come, it never sinks in.  Because in my heart, I don’t believe I can and make excuses for why it is impossible.

Someone very close to me, who is a very wise person, said that when coming back from addiction, the hardest part is dealing with emotions.  Like, actually FEELING something and the shame that comes with “coming to”.  Coming out of it.  Getting back to living.  Addressing our shortcomings.  Accepting God into our lives.  To be honest, I don’t even know God that well; for years, God was/sometimes still is wrapped into this co-dependent relationship, where if I am having a tough time, it is because I am a bad person.  But, to be fair, I have always been sinful; but that doesn’t make me bad.  I have been pissed at God for a while, but a small part of me knows that I am only pissed at what I made Him in my mind to be: just another thing/person to be co-dependent on.

Dignity RC is all about start-lines.  Some of us are there to raise money for cancer.  One of us will win.  Many of us are chasing a PR.  Some of us are trying to get our post-baby bodies back.  And some of us, like myself, know that it is in the start-line where we begin to forgive ourselves.  It is in the start line where we give ourselves permission to live again.

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A road that kills my quads

One day I will race well- for now, it is a struggle.  I am still going to look at my times and wonder if I am getting slower.  Make excuses for myself.  Defend myself, while tearing myself apart on the inside.  One day life will feel good again- I will know what it is like to have some emotions and recognize them.  The phrase “it gets better” is no joke.  I believe that with all my heart.  But for now, I am going to continue to put myself on start lines.  I am going to continue to fight for a life that isn’t filled with numbing, but one that walks arm in arm with every emotion life has to offer.  I am going to continue to work on my co-dependent behavior, and learn that the only person I can live for is myself.  And finally, I am going to find out who God is, because the one I have created in my head is not the one I know in my heart.

If you are in a place where you feel like everything is falling apart, where you feel no sense of worth, or you are so terrified of yourself, that numbing behaviors seem appeasing, just remember: it gets better.  Get help.  Address your shit.  Get up again.

Finally, keep putting yourself on that start line.  One day, you will fly again.

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Resources:

Addiction Hotline

National Eating Disorder Help

Alcoholics Anonymous

Narcotics Anonymous

 

Solitary, Solidarity

As a PhD student, I spend a lot of time in the lab, diligently working away on the next experiment. I fail, a lot. I forget chemicals, I am not delicate enough with the samples, I botch the statistical analysis. During the course of a day, I may speak with another student or my mentor, but interactions are seldom and fleeting. Like others, I am still new to science. And like others still, I am new to running.

I’ve been a scientist for others. I’ve been a runner for others. To complete a task, a workout, a day, knowing that your efforts were important and valued and directly impacted the success or failure of your team or colleagues — that is easy.

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Now I complete experiments alone, carefully mounting brain tissue onto microscope slides and coaxing a glass opening one ten thousandth of a millimeter to a cell before breaking it and sighing into the humming void of the lab.

Now I run alone, dodging cars and potholes and thinking about the little boy across the street who hangs over the balcony and shouts hello to the passing strangers below.

Now I live alone, in a studio apartment in a city where I make up less than one-quarter of one tenth of one thousandth of a percent. I can go dozens of hours without touching another human: I dare you to test me. The UPS driver told me that people have bad days and honk at him and it’s all apart of the fabric of life here and I just stared at the logo on his shirt and wondered if he had touched another human today.

“In these overcrowded and dimly lit recesses of myself, it is easy to get lost and tumble down a rabbit hole of regret and fear while running, working in the lab or lying in bed at night.”

In just about everything we do, there is an element of loneliness. Science and running and life can all be really, incredibly suffocating. There are mornings when I wake up and struggle to breathe that first morning dust mixed with breaking dawn. There are strides during my runs when I can’t quite swallow and my inhalations deepen and my eyes bulge. There are hours I wonder if I can take another rotation of the clanking plastic fan in my lab and its humble reminders that there might be a breeze outside.

My research focuses on the effects of aerobic exercise on the brain after the onset of Parkinson’s disease. We seek to find differences in blood flow during distinct exercise types, whether the neurons typically damaged during Parkinson’s can survive a little longer, and if physical behavior and capability improves. Our projects are inherently translational, lending themselves to potential applications in humans–a hallmark that serves as the quasi-trade-wind in science.

I hold but hope that my projects, which involve a lot of abbreviations and niche techniques and polysyllabic descriptions, will one day have an impact on another human being; if I can’t touch them myself, to lay my hands on their shoulders and reassure them that their life is not moot and there are a lot of people singing their praises even if they can’t hear them, then perhaps my work can. I want to make this world a little easier for everyone. I want to know if delayed gratification can impact disease. I want to know if disease even bats an eye at delayed gratification.

Yet every day, I rise and step outside and breathe a little deeper and put one foot in front of the other in any way I can muster. I was taught, growing up, that delayed gratification was the most rewarding result, that opting for the tougher road and sowing the coarse loam would yield the most bountiful harvest. I feel that way about science. I feel that way about running. I feel that way about love and life and trials where we are pushed further than before.

“In just about everything we do, there is an element of loneliness.”

Recently, I raced my first half marathon. A couple weeks prior to that, I ran my first 10K. In both races, after the first mile, I was alone, stranded between groups of runners. It felt poetic, almost too right, to be racing against myself. There are miles, whether on a safety cone-lined race course or the muted streets, where the harsh streetlights mix with the softening morning sky, when I quietly slip away into the corners of my mind I oft ignore.

It’s there where I run my tongue over the words I desperately wanted to but never said to the girl I loved for so long, the same letters I wore endlessly into the insides of my mouth and let spoil there. It’s there where I replay the eye contact I made with strangers and wonder if my eyes showed that I care about them or if they saw anything behind these Spanish blue irises. It’s there where I wander in mental circles, swaying like willow branches between the future and my mistakes and that boy I kissed once and whether my friends understood how I felt walking into a bedroom 2,000 miles from home and how crushing the atmosphere felt.

I find myself constantly reminded of the intimacy of our world”

In these overcrowded and dimly lit recesses of myself, it is easy to get lost and tumble down a rabbit hole of regret and fear while running, working in the lab or lying in bed at night. I got lost while writing this — I spent an entire afternoon in a coffee shop, staring at a blank piece of paper and my eyes flowed between clarity and a muddying of the table, my pen, my insides. I find myself constantly reminded of the intimacy of our world and the miniature biomes within: the comforting text message from an old friend, a high-five from a classmate after answering a question correctly, the virtual support of strangers online. I may feel alone but that loneliness doesn’t stifle my growth and pursuits, my failures and success; instead, it serves as a surprising tap on the shoulder, the gentle grasp of my hand across the table that says, “This time is yours but this world isn’t yours alone.”

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As solitary as science, running and love can feel, there is a built-in community ready to prop you up and offer you the next experiment, the next step, the next breath.

 

 

 

Resources:

Loneliness

Loneliness (2)

Parkinson’s Disease

Running: The Path to Your True Self

By: Mitch Gilbert

“Running is the greatest metaphor for life because you get out of it what you put into it.” –Oprah Winfrey.

I apologize in advanced for starting out this little segment with a quote, but as cliché as it may sound it’s the truth. I myself have been a runner for roughly 14 years and the lessons I have learned from this sport have helped mold me into the person I am today, both on and off the track. For me, it’s so easy to ramble on about running since it is one of my greatest passions, but hang with me because I promise there is a point to all this.

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Running and life are connected in the most ridiculous of ways, and more often than not it takes a lot of self-reflection to see the paths drawn out right in front of us. While there are so many different paths and life lessons you can learn from it all, I’m going to focus this piece on the aspect of Love; which in my opinion is the most powerful lesson you can learn. Looking back on my College years, I got a true taste about running, love and how it truly shapes who you are. In 2010, I had the privilege of being a mediocre Illinois High School runner who decided last minute to change colleges and attend North Central; a small Division 3 school located in Naperville, Illinois. Those 4 years (I was a 5th year part-time so I was unfortunately out of eligibility) were hands down the hardest years of my life. The rest of the freshmen class and myself had no idea what we were getting ourselves into that first day of practice when we learned that there was a tempo before the intervals…as in a workout before the workout!? How quickly something so challenging and tough became the norm, and after a few months of NCC training under my belt I was a new man. My mileage had jumped from 50’s a week to 90’s and I worked out, religiously, 3 times a week (4 if you include long runs, which I do because they were 2 hours and they were tough) on top of balancing friends, family, and school. The older I got, the more intense the workouts and mileage got and soon it was pretty normal to break my old high school PR’s during workouts and long runs.

You see, I got into a dangerous mentality. I believed that if I crushed the workout, than that meant I was a good runner and I had proven myself to my friends. Now that I’ve proven it to them, I will prove it to the coaches come race day, and once I prove it to them on race day, they will see how hard I have worked and how much I love and respect the team. Earning their approval (the coaches, my friends, and my teammates) means that I have meaning, which therefore means I matter as an individual.

Now, looking back on it all, I can admit that I did a lot of stupid things. For instance, it’s not smart to run your first mile of a “warmup” in 5:40 up a hill without stretching or to close your last 3 miles of a tempo in 14:55 when you’ve only done 5 of the 15 miles you have to do that day. But, the reason why I did all of those things is because my teammates were doing them, and if they could push through the pain, then I demanded my body to do the same. This kind of training is extremely beneficial for mentally toughening yourself up and giving you an instant boost of self-confidence. However, it is extremely easy to get injured and for me, it also had one negative effect that ultimately halted my ability to make the leap from “good to great” in college.

I thought that by investing 100% into the process that it would make me a better runner, and for a time it did; but ultimately it stunted my growth and forced me to realize, the hard way, that you can’t just be a good person by being a good runner.

You see, I got into a dangerous mentality. I believed that if I crushed the workout, than that meant I was a good runner and I had proven myself to my friends. Now that I’ve proven it to them, I will prove it to the coaches come race day, and once I prove it to them on race day, they will see how hard I have worked and how much I love and respect the team. Earning their approval (the coaches, my friends, and my teammates) means that I have meaning, which therefore means I matter as an individual. In a team that is so stupidly talented and hardworking, it’s hard to earn the respect of others if you aren’t the one crossing the finish line first or being the deciding factor in helping the team win a national championship. I wanted to show everyone that I had what it takes to be recognized and that I could be one of the greats. My friends and fellow teammates all had that same mindset to be the very best we could be, but I think I was one of the few who ultimately made the mistake of putting my self-worth into it. I thought that by investing 100% into the process that it would make me a better runner, and for a time it did; but ultimately it stunted my growth and forced me to realize, the hard way, that you can’t just be a good person by being a good runner.

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My senior year was the accumulation of my toughest times, I had hit an all-time low. In the span of a month: I was forced to change my major which would force me to stay in school for another year, my father had lost his job, my cousin and aunt were both dealing with life-threatening complications in the hospital, I had broken up with my at-the-time serious girlfriend, my brother was having a tough time with his own personal issues, and last but not least I had failed to make the nationals team for the 3rd time in a row. Now, this isn’t meant to be a “woe is me life is so hard” story, but I tell you this because hitting this rock bottom forced me to look in the mirror and ask “What the hell are you doing and what the hell is going on with your life!” I had lost the fire to care about myself as a whole person, and I realized that outside of running I had stopped growing up and caused the other parts of my life to crumble. Obviously, some of these life issues were outside of my control, but I didn’t attack these real life problems with the same intensity and fire that I would attack a workout in practice with the guys. I had forgotten what was important in life. I’m not “Mitch the runner”; the guy I tried to be for so long, but I am “Mitch, the goofy, often times immature Disney Dork who eats Chocolate, hangs out with friends, and runs for fun and personal bests”. With Al Carius as my head coach (One of the greatest coaches in the United States, regardless of Division) you would have thought that his one motto “Run for fun and personal bests” would have stuck itself permanently into my brain after all these years, but it took till my last season on the team to finally get a glimpse about what he really meant.

If it could invade my most sacred and happiest of places, than there was no telling what it could do if it began to affect me as a person for a second time. I ran every day to re-teach myself the art of self-love.

Over the course of the next two years (6 months of that was running for NCC, the rest was me post-collegiate) I fought long and hard to re-discover the love and fun that I had once had with running. I hated going out for runs, but couldn’t get myself to stop. I believed that, regardless of everything that had happened, it was my duty to never let my self-worth slip into something as fun and trivial as running ever again. If it could invade my most sacred and happiest of places, than there was no telling what it could do if it began to affect me as a person for a second time. I ran every day to re-teach myself the art of self-love. For so long, I had let bad workouts and bad races dictate my entire attitude for weeks on end, and I refused to let that happen again. When you aren’t apart of a team anymore, you realize just how special the team feeling is and how hard it is to get out and push yourself when nobody else is there to help you. My friends and I created a group on runningahead.com in order to keep each other motivated and to mimic the friendly/fun atmosphere that we had created when we were all in college together.

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For me, this was a big step. It was great seeing that my friends were still my friends regardless of how fast or slow I was. I missed the morning runs from the corner of Chicago Avenue we had together; but seeing the guys getting out on their own and running because they wanted to/still had dreams to chase helped me get back on the horse and put purpose in my running again. This, along with many other reasons, was why I signed up for the Chicago Marathon in an attempt to give competitive running another shot.
Long story short, I did poorly (by my standards) for the race and had to walk between 8-10 different times. However, this was the 2nd big step for me as I finally realized that despite epically failing in my book, I was still proud of myself because, on that day, I had given it everything I had. This big bump in the road kicked my competitive juices back into place and got my anxious to start running seriously again. While I wasn’t doing 90-100 miles a week anymore, I made sure that, regardless of my schedule, I went out for a run at least once a day and that each run had a purpose. I wanted to grow as a person each time I went out for a run, and was done running mileage just for “mileages sake.” I was re-learning to listen to my body, and became much more intuitive over the course of the following year. I started coaching high school XC & Track, and incorporated this new intuitive viewpoint style into the kids training. I was fortunate enough to be on two different teams that each allowed me some creativity with the occasional workout. I was also able to bond with the kids and was reminded about how pure and exciting the act of running can be. Seeing these kids race with that reckless confidence that only high schoolers can have was the 3rd step in me getting back on track.
Finally (thank you for hanging with me this far, I know this has been long), the last step that truly got me back into loving running and loving myself was the fact that I was offered a job to be an Assistant Coach at Aurora University. My job was simple, show up 2-3 times a week and workout with the guys/girls team. I was told to “whip them into shape” which ultimately ended up being a double edge sword as they challenged me on every workout we did together. I would then go to meets and help coach their as well, but ultimately I got to learn about these athletes mostly from the miles we did together on the roads during the week. I try my best to keep myself at a respectable level and act like a coach, but the athletes know I do this and try to put me in awkward situations. Their attempts are refreshing and humorous, as it helps remind me that we are all out here shooting for the same goal, regardless of age or title.
As the season was drawing to a close, I was extremely happy when I saw a Graduate Assistant position opened up for the following year. I applied and got the job, which allowed me to continue working for Aurora as well as pursue a Master’s Degree in business. Working with these student athletes and the coaching staff has helped me finally discover the proper balance that running has in life, and that is that running will always be there for you, no matter what. Running is something that is meant to be incorporated into your day and help pick you up. Every failure, every success you make in running is a small lesson to learn in the form of patience, understanding, and love of the process. It reminds me of the fact that I have an amazing support group who cares and understands me for who I am, not just simply what I do.

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For me, I have been absolutely blessed to be apart of multiple teams throughout my life, but one team that I have always had from the start is that of my family. I have cousins and uncles who have been running since before I was born; and the only reason my excitement for the sport grew like it did was because my family was kind enough to show me the ropes from when I was very young. We have a group called “Team Gilbert” in which we try and meet up several times throughout the year at local road races to get some quality miles in followed by an even more quality breakfast. As of recently, the newest member to my family’s team is my father, who went from a limited/no running background to finishing a marathon in the short span of a year. I know what I asked of him was extremely hard to do, but he was on board from the start and the runs we did together leading up to the marathon were some of my absolute favorites. My mother was just as equally apart of our success, serving as both our biggest supporter and cheerleader. She deals with our running banter and reminds us to stay humble and truly focus on what matters most…having fun.

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In a place where each of us has our own destination and our own journey, running is one of the few things that connects us all. We all feel its pain, we all feel its rewards, and we all feel how it strengthens us both morally and physically with everyday life. The determination and mindset that a runner has will often show itself in your job, in your relationships, and in yourself. To keep this place of happiness pure, you must remember what truly matters in life and us that to help dictate your running, not the other way around. I know there are many of you who don’t have this problem and were strong enough from the start to figure it out on your own, but to others like me who have/will/are struggling from this, just remember that you’re not alone. Your friends and family love you, now make sure to love yourself in the process. We’re all in this together, and together we are all one big TEAM.
Now, I know that not everyone has been on a team in the past so this may be new to you; but if you are looking for a group of crazy people to call your second family, my best suggestion would be looking to join a running club in your local area. Running stores like Dick Pond Athletics, Naperville Running Company, Roadrunner Sports etc all have groups of runners that meet at their stores throughout the week to do different kinds of workouts. This entails anything from easy walk-2-runs to interval/hill workouts and has a complete range of people and fitness levels. These groups start out with just running, but always leads to great comradery and so much more. I have been fortunate enough to work with a running company (Dick Pond Athletics) for over 2 years and have recently just joined their new start-up racing team! For anyone interested in seeing an example of what it looks like to sign-up for one of these groups, feel free to follow the link and see for yourself!: http://www.dickpondracing.com/ (And hopefully join us! We have cake every 3rd Thursday of the month at the store, so if you need any extra motivation, do it for the chocolate).
I look forward to seeing you all out there on the roads! Together, we can each make ourselves not only better runners, but better people as well. It all starts with putting one foot in front of the other, and even on the days where it’s tough, we’ll do it together one mile at a time.

 

Here are some other resources based on this blog:

Naperville Running Co Running Groups

Find a Running Club

How to Improve Self Esteem

 

 

A Girl Stuck In Her Mind

By: Jackie Schane

At times, stress can get to the best of us. That’s why we run. At times, we have a hard day; we are sad and frustrated, feeling lonely and tired. That’s why we run. Our strengths are sometimes hidden by our weakness. When we feel weak, we feel as if our strength has been pushed down to its lowest ability and we fight to get it back. When we run, we feel all of our strength that was hidden rush through our veins. Rush through the muscles in our legs. Playing the perfect song that gives you the chills when you’re running and trying to relieve your stress all seems like a dream in the moment.

“However, we can occasionally lose sight of why we run. Sometimes the stress put on our minds is too much for a run to clear it and, that’s when we feel weak and broken down.”

Never in a million years did I think my parents would get a divorce or did I ever think that my golden heart could be broken for months. This was when I needed strength the most. Stress got the best of me and, it didn’t help that I was also stressed searching for my self-confidence. Occasionally turning to God, then occasionally I turned to running but around December, I wanted nothing to do with it. I was weak mentally.

When I run, I feel that I can accomplish anything. I feel so relaxed just letting it all go in the distance I’m traveling. This is why we run. To feel that adrenaline and Runner’s High that we all get when we just go out and let our love for the sport move our legs. Clearing your mind and letting your muscles move in sync to that perfect song. However, we can occasionally lose sight of why we run. Sometimes the stress put on our minds is too much for a run to clear it and, that’s when we feel weak and broken down. I had never felt that way before, especially on race day. No matter how many times I considered dropping out I remembered where that would leave me. Weak, frustrated, upset and over all completely embarrassed and lost.

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…me at my weakest

I finished the race at a time I was not happy with, a mind that was blown to pieces, but my physical stature was in its top shape. You can understand this. You can be your own worst enemy in any situation. What you learn from this though, is that Personal Records can’t happen every race day.

Not every day are you feeling good about what is going to come your way. The best thing you can do is be positive. Be good sports to anyone you encounter who has made you feel weak because they are teaching you something about yourself that you could not get to on your own. Take this literal uneasy race and uneasy situation and use it to be more engaged, prepared, and determined for YOU. Oh, don’t forget to treat yourself, of course. Even though I had a bad race, a first break up, or a family slowly coming undone, I deserved it. I was treating myself for not giving up during the toughest mental game that any runner is eventually going to encounter.

I never gave up trying to find my self confidence again no matter how long it took. I did things for ME after that race and that is all that matters. I treat myself after every race and after every stressful day because whatever my body went through that day deserves to relax by doing a little shopping or eating lots of chocolate.

Self strength: 1 Weakness: 0

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…me at my strongest

Never give up when you lose sight of what you came to accomplish. Keep going. In the end, you will be glad to say that you never gave up, you finished business no matter how weak it felt (and that you ate a donut afterwards) automatically gives you all the strength in the world. Your supporters will be so happy to hear that you never gave up and that you gave IN to a donut. Tough out the toughest moments in a race and in life because one bad race/day will make you stronger for all the others following.

Making a comeback will inspire others and bring you back to that perfect song…  

 

Links:

Stress Reduction Activities for Students

Stress Relief Techniques

A link to links for resources on divorce