I have now run in three 10K races, and despite the extreme humidity and constant hilliness of this weekend’s Georgetown 10K, I felt comparatively awesome afterwards. Why? Because I actually trained.
I know this sounds obvious – the whole practice makes perfect mentality – but I also know how hard it is to actually follow through on this seemingly simple step. In the past, a combination of laziness and an inflated ego have resulted in brutal finishes: eh, I’m capable, I’ll just try really hard on the day. No. That’s how I get injured.
My biggest takeaway from Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers is that talent can get you far, but what really matters is putting in the hours. This applies to race training, and Dad, my unofficial coach, tells me that it’s not about being able to run a certain distance, but about training your body to get used to running for longer periods of time.
Training also helps you figure out those other variables, like what you should eat and drink before, and how important it is to find the restroom when. It’s nice to not have to make these arbitrary decisions on race day if you already know what you need, and have practiced the routine enough that it’s second nature.
Finishing a 10K or a half marathon is an achievement in itself, but the benefits stretch far beyond accomplishing that one goal. When I run well, I prove to myself that I am strong, in body and mind. High on that achievement, I become addicted to the feeling of success that hard work can earn.
John Green says that “What we love about sports is that it’s not like life. There’s no room for ambiguity in sports”. Most of us are uncertain about what our big dream is, let alone how to make it come true. Unlike life’s nuances, running a race is a concrete goal, with a pretty straightforward training plan: practice running, and practice running more. Those of us chasing ambiguous senses of purpose can benefit from the stability of something like sports, and the reminder that creative as we are, we’ve got to practice using our grit.
All types of training contribute to your overall training to be a heroine. In my book, I explore how training for a side passion can help us grow as individuals too. I’m curious: what are your hobbies, sports, and practices? Let me know in the comments. Not all of us want to be Olympic athletes or professional dancers, but pursuing a passion on the side helps us further our own personal paths.