Running makes you better, in every way
There is a lot written about running; this is my take on why running makes you a better person, more able to deal with anything life throws at you!
Ken Rice, whose post inspired me to write this article starts his post on running with: “If you run three miles a day you can run across the United States in one thousand days.”
Ken beautifully breaks down his long journey from age 12, thru marathons, his amazing 5:33 pace. The good and bad times in his life, where running supported him and kept him going.
Ken and I are two very different individuals with very different experiences in life; we started running at different phases of our lives for very different reasons, Ken was more a professional runner and I was an amateur, Ken was always much faster than I was at running but as I read Ken’s post (initially as a draft during Write of Passage) and reached the end, I smiled. Ken ends with “Running has given me everything. #running #life #motivation”
I’m certain that every runner who has taken running seriously (even if it wasn’t professional) knows that running has given them everything. I vehemently agree.
My experience with running
When I moved to the United States I was 165 pounds and healthy. Withing a year I had become 220 pounds. Yes, I had gained 55 pounds in a year. American food (oh and how I loved junk food) My go-to meal most days was a triple classic from Wendys, the largest sized fries, and the biggest drink were my meal most days. Part of this was out of necessity because I could not get paid without a social security number and I was running out of money but part of it was carelessness with my attitude toward life. When you’re young, you are cocky and don’t think anything will affect YOU. You’re immortal until you’re not. I assure you that you’re not.
My mom passed away that year; of cancer. My mom was a vegetarian, non-alcoholic, non-smoker. When I was in my early 20s she had breast cancer and 7 years after that went into remission it came back, long, hard, and fast. She was dead less than a year later. I was 220 pounds, and unhealthy.
I needed a shock of seismic proportions to kick off my lifelong love for running.I decided that I need to, have to change the way I live!
I did two things to kickstart my flywheel. Changes to my food habits and exercise. Notice I did not call this a diet. It wasn’t a diet, it was a lifestyle change. I personally believe that diets do not work
I started off by quitting beef, lamb, and pork, and stuck to chicken and fish, on the weekends only. I quit cakes/chocolates/sweets/sugar completely. I quit sodas and haven’t had a single soda since then.
I also started exercising in a simple form. Walking on the treadmill. I used to live in San Diego back then and the apartment I lived in had a tiny gym with one treadmill that was worn, tired of the world, and squeaked like crazy! When I started I could barely muster half a mile of walking and perhaps a few seconds of running. I was determined and being a Capricorn, if we’re determined to do something we do it! I stuck to it and as the year passed I went from not being able to run to be able to run a mile, then two, four, ten, and I was unstoppable! The runner’s high had really hit me.
I moved cities, and jobs, and traveled for work internationally but on every single journey, I had my running gear and my iPod. I never missed a run ever, pretty much running 6 days a week and in my best year I ran 4000 miles (that's about 80 miles a week on average) and I loved it. To give you an idea of how much running that is, the CDC recommend that most adults aim for 10,000 steps per day. This was more than double that every day
Work pressure - run, relationship problems - run, family issues - run, can't sleep due to jet lag - run. Running was my cure for every ailment and running was the best cure for every ailment.
Over a decade I lost 80 pounds and my weight went to 140 (it's since back up to ~160 and fluctuates between 150-160).
Running for me kicked off this flywheel of a habit and as a Capricorn, I always needed consistency and routine. Running was that for me.
Life has taken me down in so many ways on so many occasions that I can’t care to count anymore but I knew I could always count on running. I’m an introvert and I choose running because it was an activity that I could do anywhere, anytime, for any length of time. I didn’t need an activity partner just my trusty shuffle with my 80’s rock loaded up and enough battery to last a couple of hours.
“There are clubs you can’t belong to, neighbors you can’t live in, schools you can’t get into, but the roads are always open.”— NIKE
In the absence of a good stable relationship, running became my partner. She was my companion, my confidant, my thinking partner, my medicine, my .. love!
Over the years I got married, had a horrible relationship (a lot of it my fault) and from the bad relationship days through the divorce running helped me become stable, think better, and stay sane, sleep like a baby
Most people I meet cannot understand this fascination with running and it's inexplicable; I can’t tell you how it feels, you need to feel it and everything is always better after a run. No exceptions. I’ve been a runner for two decades almost and running has gotten me through the hardest things in my life.
You don’t decide to wake up one day and become a runner. Along the way, you become one!
Physically running has kept me in shape and medically speaking I never consume medicines because I just don’t need them. I’m never sick. Running also helps create a habits flywheel
What would life be had I not run?
If I had not taken to running I fear that I would have been unhealthy, unfit, and most likely dead. I have heard several stories of people in my age group, who because of life’s problems turned to drugs or alcohol. A friend of a friend recently died from alcohol abuse and I was stunned. Another friend had a heart attack and it was a wake-up call. Me? I’m healthy as an ox!
Running and Habit formation
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” — Aristotle
Running (or any life change) will create in you a beneficial habit and once you get addicted to it, you can’t stop. The days I miss my run, I feel depressed. This is essentially a flywheel effect where one positive change kicks off many positive changes. Your flywheel might look something like this: You start running, you feel like you’re on top of the world, then you think about other unrelated changes such as the food you are eating; you start thinking wow, I should be more careful and think about things I buy and you end up buying more fresh food and less processed food; more nuts, less soda, and chocolate.
You stand in front of the chocolate aisle questioning the decision to buy a chocolate a million times (yep, guilty, and always fall for it!). You start saying no to alcohol-filled late nights because you want to get up and run (yep, guilty!). This kicks into motion a flywheel that will change your life. I’ve used running as an example here because that worked for me. This however can be applied to any kind of habit formation whether it's reading or writing.
Running and depression
In Running Saved my Life Zoe Margolis talks about how running literally saved her life. The article itself is quite long but well worth the read. I am mentally a very strong human being but definitely have my bouts where I feel depressed and if not for running I am pretty sure I’d be suffering from some form of mild or even moderate depression. From the article:
Running and success
Ha! Typical silicon valley dude, tying it all back to success! But here are the things that I have personally been able to take from running back to my work life and that I think have made me a better employee and colleague
Every year I set a running goal. Unlike everyone else I don’t make new year “resolutions”. I just set a goal and work toward it knowing that there will be times that I’ll miss my run. I use MapMyRun to track each run and keep a track from week to week how I am doing and if I am on track to meet my goal. In 18 years of running, I have never missed my running goal. I do the same thing at work; setting goals helps me do the things I do not want to do (similar to a shitty morning where I do not want to run). It has created serious discipline in me. Hell, your co-workers will appreciate you for being the person that does what they say.
Why is this important? Take the following example:
In 1979, Harvard MBAs were asked if they’d set clearly written goals. The result: only 3% had written goals and plans. 13% had goals but they weren’t in writing. 84% had no goals at all. Ten years later, the same group was interviewed. The results? The 13% of the class who had goals, but did not write them down was earning twice the amount of the 84% who had no goals. The 3% who had written goals were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97% of the class combined!
What gets tracked gets measured and I am anal about tracking my runs. Similarly, for all the products that I have worked on, the metrics matter the most.
Value of time
As a runner, I value time greatly. I know how hard it is to plan runs and actually keep to a schedule. My trick is to carve out time on my calendar for a run. Similarly, if there is an unpleasant task that needs my attention, I carve out a dedicated time and because I value my time, I get that unpleasant task done!
Running makes you highly disciplined. An example is the flywheel above. You will avoid alcohol and give up (or cut down) on bad food habits because you want to become a better runner. I had a friend who was visiting the Bay Area a few years ago. He could only meet at 7 PM and I had a run. Guess what I chose? ;)
Play the long game
Running is a long game. Life too is a long game. We know that each mile will add to the next mile and compound in the long run. As Naval Ravikanth has said, “Play long term games with long term people”. That is how I view both my personal and work relationships; never compromising on either.
Running injures you and you learn to deal; you learn to run that extra mile when you’re in pain. Have you ever had an obstacle at work? You get better at fighting work obstacles if you have had similar experiences as a runner
I’d be honest here. I’m not the most patient human being but running has definitely made me more patient both in life and at work. I was always worried about my destination (need to be a Chief Product Officer by 40) and I never figured out why I really wanted that. Over the years, patience has shown me if it's for me, it will come my way. Patience teaches you humility and you also shed your ego.
Being a runner teaches you how to compete - not with anyone else, but with yourself. You see we all have a path that we go down and there will always be someone else younger, richer, faster, smarter, any fucking facet that you can imagine. The real question to ask is : Are YOU a better version of yourself than you were yesterday? That's the only thing that matters. If you can do this you will not be corroded by perceived failure, envy, hate, or jealousy and you won’t play that game because it doesn’t matter.
Runners are pack animals especially if you do relays. Guess what companies are? As the African proverb says “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. We understand the power of teamwork but we also understand when the team is not working and who is not pulling their weight.
I’ve had a lot of failures and personal setbacks but the one thing I can count on is knowing that 1) The failure is temporary and 2) I’ll get through this. Runners are very resilient that way and we take that to our jobs as well!
Ken Rice states that “I learned that sometimes you simply put one foot in front of the other and that is enough”. Isn’t that the very essence of life?
Running has indeed given me everything. #running #life #motivation. Running has indeed gotten me through the hardest things in my life. I know that I’ll run for as long as I am alive and I can run! I’ll leave you with my favorite quote on running.
“One run can change your day, many runs can change your life.” — Unknown
Thank you so much to Akiko Mega and Leo Ariel for feedback on early drafts and for making this more understandable and relatable. And of course a huge thanks to Ken Rice for inspiring me to write this. You beautiful people!