I’m still amazed I can run for two-and-half hours without stopping. If you rewound to my passive youth and young adulthood, it would seem unfathomable that I could keep moving for even half an hour, let alone 150 minutes straight. And enjoy the experience, relish it? Never.
And that, to me, is the most powerful lesson of running. You don’t just travel from Point A to Point B on any given day, you also move from here to there as an individual. You become someone you weren’t.
It doesn’t happen quickly. None of us flips a switch and becomes a long-distance runner. The journey of a thousand miles, in this case literally, begins with a single step, or maybe a slow, painful jog around the block. From there, it’s a long, slow process of incrementalism. There are big milestones, like your first 5k or half-marathon, but it’s largely like any other progress you achieve in life: slow, steady and unglamorous.
Over time, though, like compound interest, the advancement accumulates and one day you discover you can do the remarkable, something you never could before.
Too often, we want and expect instant results. We’re hard-wired for immediate survival, not the long game. And when we don’t make significant advancement, we quit. Bill Gates is quoted as saying, “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.” Some novices are disappointed if they can’t run 10k on their first try, or complete a marathon within a few months of their first outing. Instead of sticking with it, they give up too soon, disappointed with the early results and failing to imagine how much progress they can achieve if they persisted over a long period of time.
It’s a lesson I try to apply to everything in life. You want to be something different five years from now? Start with the first step and build from there. Running teaches us that when apply ourselves every day, when we resolve to get a little better or go a little farther every week, we can travel a long way.