Running is a challenge, a complete joy, and at times can even feel like torture. It's a lot like life. In fact, the journey through those trails and roads in your running shoes can teach you something about how to live.
1. Practice makes perfect.
Just like learning a new language or musical instrument, you won't get better at running unless you...well, run. Forgive yourself for making mistakes, for pushing yourself too hard or twisting your ankle, and then learn from it.
Instead of making the same mistakes over and over, figure out what works and change what doesn't. Make the conscious decision to improve, and you will.
2. Acquire the tools to succeed.
You wouldn't race the Indy 500 in a Pinto. Nor would you teach a geography class if you don't know the capital city of Iceland (it's Reykjavik, by the way). Like most things in life, if you want to run your best, you're going to need the right tools and basic knowledge.
A very important tool for a runner is good form. Without it, your strides may be inefficient and use up too much energy. Poor running form can also be the cause of aches and pains, and even injuries.
Take the time to read up on good form and practice it. You may also want to take advantage of coaches and running groups in your area that can give you advice and help you learn to run with better form.
Another important tool for a runner to have is a good pair of shoes. You rely on your feet more than any other body part when you run, so treat them right.
Take the initiative to research the right running shoe for your feet. You may decide on a traditional stability shoe, a pair of minimalist running shoes...or even no shoes at all. Either way, taking the time to find out what works best for you will pay off.
3. Do your best and don't worry about the rest.
It's in every one of us to look over our shoulders for our competition, in just about everything we do. But no matter how good you are at something, there will always be someone better and someone not as good.
Race entries have gone up exponentially over the last few years, which means that more people run for fun, not to win. So unless you're one of the 10 or 15 speedsters lining up for the cash prize at the finish line, why worry about your competition?
Run your own personal best and play to your strengths, whether it be endurance, speed or something else.
4. Don't give up.
Life comes with many challenges. The more challenges you accept, the more you learn about yourself. This is as true about running as it is about life.
If you're too afraid to sign up for your first marathon or tackle that tough, hilly trail, you'll never learn you can do it. Even if you don't succeed, the learning still occurs. So put yourself to the test and try something that scares you a little. You'll be glad you did.
5. Always be prepared.
Don't leave your house without your wallet. Buy a generator for your home. Always wear clean underwear. There are dozens of things you do each day to anticipate the unexpected. Running can teach you a few things about being prepared, as well.
Lessons include bringing gels or energy bars on long runs, knowing your route before you leave the house to avoid getting lost, and wearing an ID bracelet that lists your emergency contacts and medical conditions, just in case the unthinkable ever happens.
6. Take time to smell the roses.
Life can be full and frantic, but that shouldn't keep you from slowing down and enjoying it. Sometimes it's refreshing to take off the GPS and just run at your own speed until you're tired.
Spend more time looking at the landscape instead of your wrist. Slow down. Unplug. Reset. Turn off the music. Bring your dog along and watch how much he enjoys being outdoors. The freedom can be intoxicating.
Pay attention to the things you learn from your running experiences, and let them be lessons for living a better life.
What has your running taught you this year?Sign up for your next race.
Trisha Reeves is a half marathoner with more than 10 years of running experience.