At the start of my junior year of high school, I joined my school’s cross country team. Believe me, I was absolutely terrified. I had run winter and spring track since my freshman year, but I never previously imagined not just jogging, but rather racing, an entire 3.1 miles. It seemed so intimidating! Think about it, who would voluntarily sprint up hills and through overgrown woods for fun? Nonetheless, I did it. Then, I did it again. Race after race, my strength and confidence continued to grow despite the physical pain and mental exhaustion that I experienced. The mix of physical and mental work involved in running a 5k makes racing this distance an experience unlike any other. For that reason, I believe that everyone should run a 5k during their lifetime. In an effort to persuade you to give it a try, I have included a list of the things that I have learned from running long distance and why I love to run 5k races.
1. You’ll learn Comparison is the thief of joy.
It’s natural to compare ourselves to others; we have all done it. Comparison can motivate us to improve, but it can also diminish our own self-worth. When I first started running, I couldn’t help but compare myself to the runners around me. I thought, how could she could run a 5k in under 20 minutes? How could she run eight miles on an “easy” day? However, I quickly came to terms with the fact that there is always going to be someone faster or stronger than me, so I couldn’t measure my own value based on the abilities of those around me. Instead, I learned to find joy in my personal improvement and growth. One of the many reasons why I love running is that performance is judged based on a single objective measure — a time. Therefore, once I learned to focus on myself and work towards dropping my own times through my own efforts, I felt the most happy.
2. you’ll learn WInners don’t always win.
I’ve learned that “winning,” both in life and in running, does not always come with a medal or ribbon adorned with “first place.” In many instances, running is an individual sport. Therefore, a sense of achievement comes from personal improvement or success. At one of my all-conference meets junior year, I didn’t place first, second, or even third in the race. Yet, I consider it to be the best race I ever ran because I got my personal record in the 5k and felt strong while running from start to finish despite the lousy weather. Walking away from the finish line knowing that I put forth my best effort and was rewarded with improvement gave me the feeling that I had a worthy personal victory to be celebrated. It was the best feeling.
3. you’ll learn Hard work leads to success.
As I mentioned before, I love running because the ability and growth of a runner is displayed by time, which is an objective measure. Thus, unlike other sports, your value as an athlete is never based solely upon a coach’s opinion, which is a subjective measure. In the sport of running, hard effort put into training will always be rewarded in races. I know that I wasn’t born with a natural ability to run long distance, and I am sure many of you weren’t either, but I love running because with hard work, anyone can be find success at any point in their lifetime. After all, all great things in life come from perseverance and hard work.
4. you’ll learn Discomfort can be delayed gratification.
I know sprinting up a steep hill five to seven times on a hot summer day after a two to three mile run sounds brutal. Yes, being at the beach or eating ice cream certainly sounds more appealing than sweating profusely. Yet, it is during these hard workouts that push you beyond your known limits that will help you become stronger, both physically and mentally. With hard work, training, and a dedication to your goals, you will thank yourself later when you are rewarded on race day with a great time. It is worth it to feel a little bit of pain in hopes of feeling immense pleasure in the future.
5. You’ll learn you can do hard things.
After running long distance for many years, other things in my life are placed relative to the difficult things that I have already accomplished. For example, sometimes there are upcoming exams, interviews, or new experiences that make me feel extremely nervous. In these instances, uncertainty prevails and I wonder how I will ever be able to get through them. Yet, when I am struggling, I can always look back to the things that I accomplished even when I didn’t think that I could. For me, this includes running races in temperatures above 75 degrees and in temperatures below 35 degrees. Through running, I have been given the strength and confidence to do the things that I once fretted out of fear of failure.