5 Lessons Learned From My Journey as an Endurance Athlete

Most people in the world fall into one of two categories. They either like running or they hate it. Now, I don’t blame people who say they hate running. A lot of people start off that way. Like wine and black coffee, it’s an acquired taste.

Endurance runners. Marathoners. A lot of people will look at us and think we’re crazy. And okay, it does seem kind of nuts sometimes. But honestly? Running has been one of the most rewarding and enriching experiences of my life. I’ve learned more from this experience than you can imagine!

The lessons I’ve learned along the way have been about far more than running.

It hasn’t just been about getting in shape, or even just proving that I can do it. It’s changed my life and my outlook. The lessons I’ve learned along the way have been about far more than running.

5 Life Lessons I Learned from Endurance Running

1) The transformation takes time.

Like any exercise regiment that actually works, the transformation from average joe to long-distance runner doesn’t happen in a day. It take months, even years, of hard and consistent effort. If I missed a workout, I had to make up for it somehow, or I’d pay for it later. Missing a run would make future runs a lot more difficult.

Slacking off just made it harder on me in the long-term, even if I thought it felt good at the time. I think there’s something to be said about that in life, too. Success doesn’t come instantly. We don’t get what we want right away. It takes time and consistency. And one day, that hard work will pay off. Even if we don’t see results, it’s there: and it’s building.

Little by little, we’ll be able to do more. And that feels incredible. There’s something to be said about patience there! The slow climb to where I am today was grueling and difficult but so rewarding.

2) You’ll really hate it. And then you won’t be able to get enough.

People who hate running generally hate it because they’ve tried it a few times. If you’re not used to it, running does not feel incredible. You can’t breathe, your lungs are on fire, you can’t feel your legs, you look ridiculous. It’s a least-fun activity.

And if you’re setting out to be an endurance runner, there will be days in the beginning where you will hate it, you will want to quit, and you will want to do anything else: including dying on the floor.

But then, one day, you’re going to feel like something is incomplete if you don’t run. Something is missing if you don’t. You won’t be able to get enough. It’s like a switch flips! Honestly, I don’t understand it. I don’t know when it happens. It just does.

Maybe it’s the value of habit. Being committed. Forming those good habits isn’t easy, but no good lifestyle change is. A commonly recited fact is that it takes 21 days to form a new habit, but research says it actually takes 66 days—not encouraging for those of your who are just starting out. But oh, boy. I’m glad I did it.

3) Setbacks take a conscious effort to overcome.

That’s not to say that once the switch flipped, and especially not before, that there weren’t bad days. Days were I rebelled and just didn’t workout. Didn’t run. Didn’t do what I was supposed to. Sometimes there was a good excuse—work, or illness, or family things, or travel. Other times, the excuses weren’t so good.

It doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. A setback is a setback, and they have to be overcome. Here’s the thing about running, or any exercise, or diet, or health plan: you can’t let setbacks knock you off course.

Failure isn’t a setback. A setback is just life. Failure is only when you quit and go back to not trying at all. Sometimes, they can be really difficult to bounce back from. But it’s possible, and when you do it, nothing feels better.

4) Each milestone is a thrill, big and small.

In endurance running circles, there tends to be a big focus on numbers. 5k. 10k. Iron Man. The longer, the tougher, the better. Give us the challenge, throw down the gauntlet. But what I’ve come to learn is that even the small victories are worth celebrating. They feel good. Just getting up and running is still a victory. When I first started, I wasn’t even doing that!

Look how far I’ve come! Think about how far you’ve come!

We can get so caught up in numbers and trophies and big milestones, but don’t forget that each time you get up and do something and make an effort, it’s a win.

5) The more you go through, the more you can handle.

If I had started off my endurance training journey by signing up for a 10k race without any training and practice, I can guarantee you that I would have thrown in the towel with that very race (if it didn’t kill me). The gradual journey, learning, growing, pushing myself through to greater heights—it all allowed me to handle more than I ever thought I could.

I’m here now because of where I’ve been. I didn’t get here without a lot of hard work and training. And that’s the same for much of my life.

I think the same can be true of all of us. We can take our experiences, personal, professional...even our hobbies...and channel them into getting to the next level. You can handle more. You can do more. Don’t underestimate yourself.

What have you learned from your training regiment? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!