Not running, just taking a new direction

I've been writing this column since 2004. In that time, I've done little more than put my thoughts and feelings on paper.

As much as I've shared my stories with you, I've had the chance to ponder what my running experiences have taught me, and the process has been life changing.


I didn't begin running with a purposeful plan. It was more happenstance than a decision that led me to it. And it wasn't until my fastest running was well behind me that I understood how running shaped my life.

Writing has helped me capture and describe the value in what some might call a simple pastime.

But now, after more than 300 columns and two books, the words aren't coming as easily, and I've decided to take a break from writing for a while.

Stepping away from something can mean you never have a chance to come back. So if these become parting words, I'd like to share what I most value from this running life of mine.

I value simplicity. Life's too hard to put on airs. Being myself is easy, and running helped me realize that there's never a need to be anything else.

I value effort. Giving up and backing down never lead to good things. Running taught me that fatigue is relative. I can be exhausted and still find strength.

I value solitude. I can be alone and not lonely, and it's hard to imagine a life when that won't come in handy.

No matter how gifted you are, or how fortunate, you'll never find real success until you accept responsibility for yourself. Running makes that point perfectly clear.

No one can make you take a first step. Only your own ambition can move you in a chosen direction. And once you're in motion, it is only internal fortitude that will keep you moving forward.

No one else can push you over a hill. You alone will need to endure the difficult miles.

Some will tell you that it's easier to assign responsibility to your circumstances, that your success is somehow linked to things outside of your control, but that is a crippling message. Until you believe that your situation is a reflection of your own actions and choices, you can never choose to change your situation.

Running helped me find joy in my boyhood, and it still awakens the boy in me today. It led me to understand how thrilling it can be to dream big and then move toward those dreams under my own power. Running taught me how to deal with adversity. It led me to believe that strength is cultivated in struggle.

Because I've accepted the challenges running presents, I know that I can also face the challenges of life. Confidence, once acquired, can be used in many ways.

As I've gotten older, running has been a means of finding peace. I can settle ailing emotions. I can resolve my own disputes. The noise of life quiets when I'm in motion.


And as I've learned to deal with my aging body, running has taught me that I'm most happy when I am gracious, when I realize that above all I am blessed.

It's important to define yourself. Just as I've done here, you should be able to describe the things you value. Make a list and live with it for a few days. Once it feels right, keep those values in mind as you live day-to-day.

Living a life in harmony with your values is the only lasting pathway to happiness.

Then, when life steers you away from who you want to be, you will have a compass, formed through you own conscious.

That, more than anything, will keep you running in your chosen direction.