Second, invest in good running shoes. Third, no matter how good your running shoes are, your feet will still hurt after 84 miles.
More than those lessons, though, I have come to realize that what you experience on a long run is a metaphor for what you experience in life. Here's why.
- When you first set out on your adventure, everything seems good. Your playlist is set, your legs are fresh, and you feel like a gazelle bounding through the morning mist. But as the miles go on, you realize your sock is crooked, the tag in your shorts is slowly driving you mad, and the hitch in your right hip isn't getting any better. In other words, the Utopian picture you painted in your head isn't your reality, and you just have to slog through the miles. Sometimes, slogging is all you can do. Slogging is good. Stopping isn't.
- There will be poop. At some point, you will see it, smell it, or heaven forbid, step in it. Poop is out there, and one day you will be its victim. You can't always avoid it, and sometimes the only thing you can do is wipe it off and keep on going. Poop happens. It's all about how you respond to it.
- You will find yourself judging the yards of the houses you run past. Your critical eye will see the tall grass and weed-ridden flower beds, and you will wonder how the occupants seem not to care about lawn maintenance. And then you will run up your own driveway and see the weeds growing with great freedom in your own flower beds. So you will repent. (And probably repeat the pattern the next day.) Judge not lest ye be judged.
- Not everyone will wave back at you. Not every car will move over to give you room. Sometimes, you will have to jump into the bushes because drivers are staring at their phones instead of the road. So, yeah, other people can be irritating and not very nice. True on a run; true in real life. Wave to them anyway, and when they run you off the road, refrain from making hand gestures or trying to chase them down. Take Elsa's advice and let it go.
- Minor irritations will give you blisters. No matter how well you protect your feet, they will betray you. A runner's feet are a sight to behold. Bulging blisters and black toenails - no one can say we runners don't take our sport seriously. Until you lose part of your phalanges to repeated pressure, you're not hard-core enough. (I'm not sure of the metaphor here. Work until your toenails fall off? Sure. We'll go with that. Oh wait - I think it was more about minor irritations. Don't let them be the cause of your blisters.)
- You will become calloused. Repetitive friction has given many runners ugly callouses, and life can do the same to your heart. Whenever there is constant pressure, a callous can form. While intended to provide protection, callouses that continue to grow can also cause pain. Callouses in our hearts can prevent us from feeling what we need to feel. Don't let the callouses of life cut off your feeling. Feel all the feelings.
- You will run past parties you weren't invited to. You will hear their laughter over the fence and smell their barbecues wafting through the air, and you will be sad. You will want to be there, at the party, and you won't be. The lesson is that sometimes you will be on the other side of the fence - and you need to be ok with that. Keep running and plan your own party.
- You will be tempted to judge people by their garbage. Piled by the curb, overflowing the massive green cans, garbage will be on display. You will see people's food waste and evidence of their purchases, and you will be tempted to create stories in your mind. Don't do this. Their garbage is no different from yours - it's just visible. We all have garbage, and none of us want to be judged by it. You will also see trash on the ground as you run past, and you will leave it there because you think it's not your problem. You might not have created it, but that doesn't mean you can't help clean it up.
- Sometimes, when you're at the farthest point of an out-and-back route, all you'll want is to be home already. A hard truth is that it might take being super far away to realize where you really want to be. Distance can be a great teacher.
- There will be days when you feel like the greatest runner ever to lace up running shoes. Your breathing will be in perfect harmony with your steps, and you will end your route thinking, "I could do that all over again!" Likewise, there will be days when you feel like a hippopotamus thundering down the road, and you will be thinking, "I cannot take another step." Don't let either extreme define you. Take them in stride and know that you'll be back somewhere in the middle soon.
- Your pace doesn't always need to match the sound in your ears. Just because Lecrae is rapping a million words a minute doesn't mean you need to double-time it down the road. Likewise, Josh Groban's gentle crooning doesn't mean you need to slow to a crawl. The music of the world (get the analogy here?) will try to control your pace. Forget it. Listen to your breathing and heart rate, and you'll know the right pace for yourself.
- And finally, running will teach you that you need to take some breaks. You can't run a million miles a day at a million miles an hour and not suffer some consequences. Your body needs your brain to be ok with taking a day off. Sleep in, go out with friends, read a book. Your time off will make your time training more effective. It will also make you remember that your run - and you - aren't the center of the universe. And when is that a bad thing?