I’m certainly not the first person to point out that we live in a fast paced, fast food, on-the-go kind of culture where everything, it seems, comes in “instant.” Instant oatmeal, instant coffee, instant mac-and-cheese. Thanks to Facebook, we can even have instant friends, even if you’ve never talked to the person before. In the midst of all this “instant,” we’ve lost sight of the beauty of process. Recently, in my training, I’ve realized that I’m living in another process: running.
Running is a step-by-step, alarm clock-by-alarm clock, mile-by-mile, decision-by-decision kind of thing.
This weekend, my dad and I ran 20 miles together.
I still can’t get over it. You see, I did not start here. I did not wake up one day and think, “I’m going to run 20 miles today.” My journey to this number begins years ago. It started with a 5K. It transitioned to running six half marathons. And then I said, “I bet I could do a marathon.”
It is a process, an insanely difficult, makes-you-want-to-cry, process.
During the run this weekend I told my dad that I’m tired of people making a big deal of my training. In my mind, anyone could do this. I’ve seen the process. I remember all of the alarm clocks, all of the choices, all of the times I said no to cake and yes to another apple. Getting to this point was one decision after the other.
It was a process, a beautiful, difficult, tiring process.
My training has not been easy. For years my stomach couldn’t tolerate running. I tried multiple remedies to fix these issues, but as it turns out my stomach just needed to get used to the exertion and the jostling. I do take electrolyte pills now when I do my long runs because my body has a hard time absorbing the electrolytes in gel packets. However, that’s all I do to combat my stomach issues because now, they are all gone.
It is a process.
The process isn’t always fun. I have been back at school for almost six weeks, and my Friday night plans don’t last past 10:00 p.m. That’s not normal. On Saturdays I’m up by 5:00 or 5:30 and am asleep by 10 because my body is so worn out by the long run. On weekdays I’m in bed between 10:00 and 10:30, and I’m up between 5:00 and 6:00 most mornings. In the D.C. my plate consists of a baked sweet potato, grilled chicken, and raw veggies. My shoe choices have even changed. I find that the more supportive the shoe, the faster my muscles will recover. When I go to the grocery store, I’m the only college student walking around with fruits and veggies and whole wheat bread in my cart.
It is a process.
But this process is healing. It’s formative. It’s transforming. Physically I feel better than I’ve ever felt. When it comes to stress, I have a regular outlet to relieve it. Mentally my mind is clear; my A.D.D tendencies feel a bit more manageable. On top of it, my long runs provide so many opportunities. When I run with another person the run provides the safety and privacy to have conversations that can’t happen on a floor with 60 girls. When I run by myself I listen to audio books. With a clear head, these books are incredibly impacting. They soak into my brain. My outlook on life, usually borderline skeptical, is much more optimistic. In my mind, there is a clear difference between the person I was one year ago to the person I am now.
This process can’t be ignored.
Running is a process. It’s one decision after the other. It’s choosing to go to bed early even when you’re in college, and it’s Friday night. It’s choosing to eat an apple instead of a cookie. It’s choosing to put on your running shoes instead of pressing the snooze button one more time. Running isn’t instant. Don’t be that person who weighs himself when he walks into a gym, runs for twenty minutes, and weighs himself again. It doesn’t work like that. Give yourself the time and the space to let running be running. Let it be the process that it is. Embrace the process. Embrace the steps that it takes. Embrace all the decisions that it requires.
Because life is a process. Life is a step-by-step, alarm clock-by-alarm clock, mile-by-mile, decision-by-decision kind of thing. It’s not instant. Friendships don’t form overnight. Success doesn’t come in an instant. Beautiful things take time.
Let running be a kind of training for life. Let it teach you to embrace process, and let it transform you into the kind of person you want to be.