My running ‘learning journey’ started more than four years ago. I call it a learning journey because I have learnt and gained a lot from this hobby/experience. It was in 2014, as I was getting ready for a Victoria Falls 7.5km fun run, that I confidently declared that I would never join a running club. Simply because I had better things to do with my early-mornings. You guessed it right – to continue sleeping!
But guess what, a year later in 2015, I joined Run-Walk for Life Zimbabwe and shortly after signed up for the Vic Falls Half Marathon. I am convinced without a doubt that family and friends that had full knowledge of my firm pronouncement back then, often look at me and think, so much for ‘I will never join a running club’.
So how did this happen?
Prior to becoming a Run-Walk for Life member I sporadically followed my own emotionally driven training programmes self-titled “I-can’t-fit-into-my-favourite-pair-of-jeans…again”, which more often than not ended the moment I could don my denim. Sound familiar?
With time, I begrudgingly accepted that my denim inspired quest for fitness was unprogressive. It was time to make a permanent lifestyle change, reinforced by a strong support system. The rest they say is history…
“Life is meant to be lived and loved.” – Sarah Nyengerai
I strongly believe that running is a powerful metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it. For this reason I would like to share a few life-lessons that I have learnt from running, aka “Sarah’s Simple Truths”. It is my hope that someone can benefit from my journey.
Like any other sport, running requires a certain level of discipline. Whether you are a solo runner or social runner, set weekly and monthly targets. This will give you something to fight for and keep you focused. This doesn’t necessarily apply only to those seeking to lose weight but anyone who is keen on living a healthy lifestyle.
Seek advice from experts
Once you begin training it can be tempting to bite off more than you can chew. To avoid this, seek advice from experts. Learn from your coaches, mentor and experienced runners, they are there for a reason, use them.
Team up, there is strength in numbers
There will be days you don’t want to get out of bed but the commitment you made with a running mate or team will keep you focused, after all it is easier to remain dedicated when you are accountable to others.
Perseverance is key
No matter how slow your progress may seem, it all adds up, each step takes you closer to your goal. Take it one kilometer at a time until you are done, it makes it easier to complete the entire distance when you simply focus on the next step. During a race, I normally single out moving targets and focus on surpassing each runner till I am done with my race.
Embrace the change
Great things never come from comfort zones. Expect to make sacrifices in order to become a better version of yourself. It’s all for the vision, the dream. If it means eating healthier so you perform better – just do it; adding an extra training session or putting in more hours to reach that goal – just do it. Whatever your goal is, be consistent. A sporadic approach won’t cut it.
There comes a time when you have to strike out on your own
Running with a team or partner is a great way to pace yourself especially during a race but there comes a time when you need to proceed ahead of others in order to meet your personal goal or hit that PB (personal best time). It is normal to feel a bit guilty about leaving your friends behind but a good running mate will urge you to go ahead.
Listen to your body (it speaks to you)
The first calf and hamstring injuries taught me this invaluable lesson. The fanatic in me kept pushing, ignoring my body’s call for rest. This cost me dearly. Had I taken time off in between training sessions I would have saved myself a forced six months recovery process which made me miss training sessions and races I loved. Failure to heed warning signs can result in irreversible damage or permanent injuries.
Unless seriously injured keep moving
You made a commitment. No one said it would be easy, it was never meant to be easy. Sing, pray, chant, do fist-pumps with each step, do whatever you need to do, but don’t stop moving. Quitting is not an option. There’s nothing more exhilarating than completing a tough race or training session.
Never judge a runner by appearance
More often than not ability has nothing to do with what the naked eye can see. The first time I ran the Two Oceans Half Marathon, somewhere along the race I found myself running alongside an athlete over the age of 70 (age category was pasted on their bib). I took one look at my fellow competitor and mistakenly thought since I was younger I could keep up, plus their pace seemed manageable. After less than a kilometer I let them go – I couldn’t keep up.
Be respectful of others and their journey
Every runner has a story, irrespective of their age, gender, race, shape, size, gait or speed. We run the same race but no-one runs the same journey. Some of the fastest runners are blind runners that run alongside a guide with nothing but a rope or tether connecting them to their pacer. Watching them finish races such as Comrades Marathon and the Two Oceans Ultra teaches you to be humble and to embrace diversity.
Run your own race and play to your strengths
It is easy to get distracted by what other runners are doing and as a result you may feel the pressure to imitate their running style (especially if they are moving faster). It is in comparing ourselves with others that we become dejected. Our strengths differ, run your own race and move at your own pace.
Progress has nothing to do with perfect conditions
When faced with unexpected hurdles, twists and turns be prepared to rise to the occasion in order for you to accomplish your goals. Endurance is key – trust the work you have put in and do your best.
Support others along the way
Runners appreciate words of encouragement or praise. Praise people when they are doing well and when you notice someone struggling encourage them to keep pushing. Words move hearts and hearts move limbs.
Never give up
If you do not manage to finish a race in the time you had hoped, do not quit or become perpetually despondent. It is not the end of the world. Give yourself a short time to grieve and re-group, then move on and start strategizing for the next goal, event, race or activity.
Celebrate your achievements and most importantly enjoy the journey
Runners’ love the thrill of a challenge, running is our drug of choice. Whatever your passion, find it, revel in the addiction and more importantly make memories.
So there you have it!
These life lessons are my nuggets and simple truths that I have picked along the way on my running journey. Lessons that are applicable in life regardless of one’s calling, vocation or passion. Running has given me the courage to start, the resolve to keep trying and the audacity to dream.
Life is a race and it’s yours alone, others can run with you but no-one can run it for you. Embrace it and keep moving forward.
“Live. Love. Laugh. Learn” are the simple words that I strive to live by, for it is in living, loving, laughing and learning that we get to enjoy wholesome lives, discover ourselves and continue to grow. I am extremely passionate about social, cultural and economic issues that affect women and aim to use my role as an educator and writer to bring about a positive change in the lives of others by intentionally pursuing a life of significance.