Life lessons from long distance running

Life lessons from long distance running

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So, I have been running for about 10 years. Started slow and never planned to run long distance. I have never been to a gym in my life. Currently, I am 100% fit and healthy despite not being able to give disciplined attention to my food intake. However, never saying never. I may have to hit the gym soon to remove the persistent bulge in my lower belly, which isn’t going, in spite of much effort. Yeah, I have been having beer consistently, which doesn’t help the cause either.

Running is one of the best things to happen to my life. Yeah, it doesn’t pay and I don’t expect it to pay in any way. If it does, well, who doesn’t like money flowing inward? I recently ran my recent half marathon 2 days back. I ran it right after a holiday. My flight landed at 3:45 and the run started at 7:10. I barely had any time to rest or sleep. This clearly affected the quality of my run and my running time. I managed 1:59 for 21.097 kilometres. I have made peace with myself.

This purpose of this post is to share the lessons I have learnt about life from long distance running. Perhaps some of you will find these useful.

  1. Life is not a race. It’s a marathon

So for beginners, here is the difference between a race and a marathon. Race is a competitive run. The participants in the race are trying to outrace the other. On the other hand, a marathon runner is trying to outrace himself or herself. A marathon runner doesn’t race with others. He races against himself.

So is life. It’s a sad take on life when it is called a rat race. We are not rats and it’s not a race. We are not supposed to race against each other.

We got to try to better ourselves every day. That’s what life is about. If it wasn’t, we would all be same. We are not.

  1. Pain is a given

Pain is a given constant. It’s not important. There will be pain. Running isn’t easy. So is life. But that’s not the point. The point is that we have to keep moving forward in spite of the pain because we are doing something that we believe in. The last Sunday, when I was running, I was in consistent physical pain through the run. It generally doesn’t happen, but this time it did.

I told myself so many times that I may not be able to complete the run, forget making it in respectable time. But, I hate stopping in the middle of a run. I did, during the only full marathon I have run because I wasn’t prepared for it. This time, in spite of the pain, I didn’t stop. I slowed down, but I didn’t stop.

We cannot stop. However, to not stop, it’s important that we do work that we believe we are born to do, that we do anything that’s meaningful for us.

  1. Life is in the journey, not the destination

You know, when you complete the run, it feels great. It’s a moment of exhilaration about a logical end to the journey. However, this Sunday at the half marathon, in the 2 hours and 5 minutes of time from the beginning to the end of the marathon, the destination time was all of 5 mins.

Life is lived on the journey. Make sure you choose your journeys wisely. Most of the life will be spent in the journeys you choose for yourself.

  1. Breathe normally, no matter what

Any seasoned long distance runner will tell you, how important running is to the entire process of a run. While I was running, I heard an old man shout out to his gang….

Normal breathing guys….normal breathing

I can’t tell you how important I think this lesson is to life now. I am an impatient guy and so are some people I am close to. This is the lesson that I need to apply to my life-immediately. I will make an effort.

Normal breathing-no matter what happens-means to stay calm and steady, regardless of what is happening.

Running is a meditative exercise. I have never used music so far while I run, because I like to let my thoughts run about. That is meditative, to allow our thoughts to wander and observe them. Running makes the runners fit but that’s just part of the equation and hardly the most important part.

Long distance running is far, far bigger than just about fitness. It is a metaphor for life.

Thank you for reading.

 

Indians- Please slow down. Stop the rush

Indians- Please slow down. Stop the rush

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This is a re-post from my #linkedinpulse article.

I didn’t do much work today. I generally get a decent amount of work done in a day to be able to look at myself with respect at the day of the day. However, I have deliberately tried to slow down over the years.

It wasn’t always so. During my undergraduate life, I tried to be a chartered accountant, a journalist, an MBA and many other things. I was desperate to learn something which will get me a job-ANY JOB. I didn’t care why I needed that job, besides that jobs pay. But I wanted a job. That’s what I was told to do. My father once famously said, to me, that he would have been happy if I got 10000 bucks a month.

I rushed through my college life. I rushed through my 20’s. I finally got an MBA. I took the CAT exam 5 times. I hated it. But I was in a rush. So, I didn’t ask myself the why’s.

I rushed through most of my life. At some point, when I had a decent job, I realized that I wasn’t quite happy. Happiness somewhere got sacrificed in the rush. I didn’t know why I was doing what I was doing and I had just rushed through 3 decades of my life.

At some point, I decided not to rush anymore, when the speed is within my control. Sometimes, I still do it unconsciously, but again, I remind myself not to rush. I want to smell the flowers. I want to leave a legacy. I want to know why I am doing what I am doing. And I want to do work that matters, with people who matter.

Think about Rudyard Kipling for a minute. What is he famous for? He is famous for a poem called “If”. How many people left something after they died which the world values? Only a few. Even if we don’t care what Rudyard Kipling did for most of his life, but he left a poem which has inspired millions. That’s leaving a legacy.

We cannot leave a legacy if we don’t know where we are headed. Most of us, at least in India, don’t know what we are passionate about. We don’t know why we do what we do, besides mercenary reasons. It is a sad way to live life. A mercenary life is not a worthy life.

The society looks down on prostitutes because they sell their bodies for money. Many of us are selling our souls for money and we want to be respected for that.

We need to slow down. We need to take a break and think who we are. We need to understand what we are passionate about. I am no authority on the subject but I have had my own journey and struggles to understand who I am. Since I am writing this piece, I would love to propose a few questions that probably could help us in connecting us with our true selves:

  1. What is the key reason that drives me to do what I do?
  2. If nobody paid me anything, what would I be willing to do for free?
  3. If I had all the money, how would I spend my time?
  4. What do I love?
  5. Who do I love? Why do I love this person?
  6. Who do I admire? Why do I admire this person?
  7. What am I passionate about?
  8. If I could live an idealistic life, what might it look like?
  9. What is one thing about me that’s unique?
  10. Who am I at the core?

Well, I could go on. These are just some of the questions that could perhaps begin to unravel for us the mystery of who we are. As Indians, there is tremendous pressure on our lives to move from one milestone to another:

Birth->Education->Job->Marriage->Kids->Grand kids->Death

I am not saying there is anything wrong with the sequence. However, it is important that there is meaning at every step. After all, life without meaning is a worthless life. We can only create meaning when know who we are and why we do what we do.

So, may be, take it slow.

Take a year off.

Take a few months off.

Take a week off.

Take a day off.

Thank you for reading.