What I've Learned from Running

by Beth Stewart in


If there is one rite of passage into the “thirtysomethings” club, it’s creating a Bucket List, and checking it off. When I first made my Bucket List, or “Life Goals Checklist,” I was shocked to discover what desires bubbled to the surface. Five years ago, I would’ve bet money I’d never enter a half-marathon; now, I’m running one in less than three weeks. 

I’ve run sporadically for my whole adult life, but I became a regular runner while working in Antwerp last winter. The layout of the city is perfect for running, with clean paths and gorgeous views, and one of my colleagues became my accountability partner. It wasn’t long before I was motivated to run on my own, and now just six months later, my running practice has become one of my great life teachers. 

It’s as simple as this: running is a microcosm of life. I realized that the roadblocks I face running are the same I face (or don’t face) in my daily life. If you’re considering taking up running but fear that it’s only for superfit athletes, keep reading.

1. SHOW UP.

There are (many) mornings where I hit snooze three times before mustering up the strength to run. I make excuses, battle with myself…maybe even battle with God or my alarm clock. In the end, I never regret lacing up and hitting the pavement. I usually plan for a certain distance depending on my training schedule, but I’ve learned to be kind to myself, sensing what my body needs that day. Some days I plan for an easy 5K and end up running double; other days I quit after a mile because my body hurts, and that’s okay too. Either way, I showed up and did my best. Since I’ve become a regular runner, I’ve become more consistent in all of my daily habits, and practiced less “all or nothing” thinking. I pride myself on being a goal-oriented, driven person, but I’ve become aware of how much I procrastinate. Procrastination is almost always fear-based; fear of boredom, fear of failure, even fear of success. Running has taught me to dive in, listen to my intuition, and trust that my best is enough. 

2. CELEBRATE MINI-VICTORIES.

Runners aim for the blessed “PR” (personal record), which can be determined by a second or millisecond. Each time you run a faster mile, even by one second, you create a new personal best. Most of us consider victories as macro level events: getting a job promotion, losing fifty pounds, writing a book, etc. But what about the mini-victories? You might not have gotten that job promotion yet, but maybe a compliment from your boss who notices your good work. Even if you haven’t reached your goal weight, it’s just as exciting to see the first five pounds melt off. Running has smacked me awake, illuminating life on a micro level. Daily mini-victories boost confidence, and lead to macro victories in no time! The magic is in the details. 

3. PERSEVERE.

In the opera world, it’s commonly understood that those who persevere succeed. One would think that a talent-based career would prize talent above all else, and it does in the beginning; however, even the most talented are not immune to criticism, rejection, and loss of faith. Those who learn how to put the blinders on and keep going are the ones who are left standing in the end. I know I said earlier that I’m kind to my body and quit when I need to. That’s true if I’m truly exhausted and I know that continuing will be detrimental rather than beneficial. Most days, when I start getting tired and want to quit, I listen to an upbeat playlist, or bargain with myself “Just one more mile!...” and inevitably finish the run as planned. We’re capable of so much more than we realize – physically, mentally, and emotionally. When I ran my first ten-mile run last week, I was shocked at what my body was able to accomplish (especially considering I was already having groin tightness at mile four), and even more surprised at the power of my mind. I told myself to slow down, take it step by step, and after I finished (and had a good stretch!) I was tired, but pain free. 

4. ACHIEVEMENT = HAPPINESS.

Happiness can come to us in all forms, but personally speaking, I’ve discovered no deeper happiness than achieving an important goal. Achievement is the culmination of the other three “running-meets-life” lessons: showing up, celebrating mini-victories (aka honoring the process), and persevering. Looking back, this formula has been true for me in career, relationships, and personal development. Every time I score a PR or run another mile, I feel deep, soulful happiness. Another word for this unspeakable happiness is gratitude. A dear friend brought to my attention that when we set goals, put in the work, and ultimately achieve them, we’re keeping a promise to ourselves. Through honoring our word, our minds and souls align, and gratitude flows.

If you’re considering becoming a runner, I suggest you give it a try: it’s free, great physical workout, emotional release, and can be done anywhere in the world with no equipment. I love this quote – “If you run, then you are a runner.” Pace, physique, and skill don’t matter – just show up, stick with it, and you’ll be amazed at your capability. Because this is The Artisan Traveler, I must conclude with a recipe. Hope you enjoy my new post-run obsession!

Mocha protein shake
(serves 1)

  • 6 coffee ice cubes (this does take a bit of prep, but it’s super easy – just fill an ice tray with coffee instead of water and freeze!)
  • 8-12 oz almond milk
  • 2 heaping teaspoons (20 g) of plant based protein powder (I use Pulsin Unflavored Pea Protein)
  • 1 packet (or tsp) Stevia
  • 1 tbsp raw cacao
  • 1 tbsp maca root powder
  • a few dashes of cinnamon (optional)

Blend and enjoy!