Lessons From the Long Run
By Alexis Mercer
I started running as a sport when I was in 7th grade. It was my first experience with organized sport in school since prior to that point I had participated in dance. My love for running was fueled quickly with the success of our team and that I personally encountered. We won a lot of meets. In fact our 4x200 team was undefeated that year.
While it might seem like a small thing being undefeated in a 4x200 relay team for a small school in Northern Michigan, it really wasn’t. Those experiences set me up for a lifetime of seeking success through hard work and determination.
Back then I was a sprinter and high jumper. The longest distance I ran was 400 meters (still my favorite distance in track thanks to the fact that it is the race that takes the most guts). My freshman year in high school I joined the cross country team in the fall. That was more of a “I think I’ll try it to get in shape for volleyball” type situation.
I had no idea that joining that team would be a complete life changer.
Twenty five years later distance running is a major part of my life. Though not always at the forefront of my activities (I played college volleyball, during which time I had 0.000 interest in running farther than 3 miles at a time), it has always been there.
I coach cross country and middle school track and occasionally friends who want to either get into running in the first place or get back into running after years off. I am a runner myself as an adult. I have participated in races at distances including 5k, 10k, 10 miles,15k, 25k, and marathons. And I’m now looking at perhaps one day doing an ultramarathon (anywhere from 50k to 100 miles) because my perspective has changed about the barriers I set for myself with distances.
Running is about the only thing that hasn’t changed in my world since Covid-19 stay-at-home hit. Granted, the marathon I signed up for in June was cancelled, and all other races between now and then have been cancelled. But the fact that I can lace up my shoes and go outside for a run is still a constant (by myself, practicing social distancing, because I am a responsible member of society who believes scientists that this is the only way to help this situation).
My days have been filled with unknowns, uncertainties, confusion, and chaos like the rest of you. And then I go for a run and the world makes a little more sense.
So I laced up my Mizunos and walked out the door on Sunday ready for a long, long run. I was feeling particularly unsettled when I began. By the end I was feeling completely restored and also had a list of ways that distance running and life in the Stay Home Stay Safe Covid-19 times are the same.
Maybe your long run is from your front door to the first electric pole. Everyone starts somewhere. It’s my belief that these lessons will be learned regardless of how far your distance run is as long as you keep putting on foot in front of the other and trying again the next day.
Life has its twists, turns, surprises, ups, downs, highs, lows and extremes. Running does, too. But running helps to make sense of all of those extremes of life. Now, more than ever, it is comforting to have a healthy activity to help keep perspective.