relationships · Running

Handling the Hard Miles

For all the blossoming, warmth, and other beacons of the new season, it seems like this has been a rocky week for a lot of folks.

Two of my friends are dealing with the end of their respective relationships. A family friend of Robin Hood’s passed away. And, though comparatively minor, I was on the receiving end of a disappointing bit of news.

Rocky patches are inevitable, but we runners have an ace up our sleeve.

It’s the simple fact that we run.

Running teaches us that a hard mile is just that: one hard mile. The next one will be better. Maybe we won’t even have to endure a full mile – maybe smoother trails lie right around the bend, or over the next rise, or across the intersection. We can do this, and we will do this.

We learn that we have unfathomable reserves of strength and endurance within ourselves, and that no one else can tie our running shoes for us or cover those miles for us. We learn independence.

However. We also learn that we’re part of a community. A huge, great one, in fact. Sure, it has a few nefarious characters, but overall, it’s a blessing. Through the community, we see examples. We gain wisdom. We give and receive support. We realize – and we’re reminded – that we’re not alone.

I’m currently re-reading Running Like a Girl by Alexandra Heminsley. I love this book. It is honest, it is funny without being annoying, and certain passages bring me to tears. The chapter about the author’s first marathon is some of the best “running writing” I’ve ever read. Here are a few snippets:

A concerned woman on the sidelines edged her stroller away from my raucous family. I shrieked, as did my sister when she saw me, and they all burst into cheering, waving, and clapping. Their fellow onlookers understood that a loved one had been spotted and joined in with the yelling. A ripple of goodwill passed through them and made its way toward me and my neighboring runners. Someone nearby slapped me on the back as I passed. Whether you know them or not, supporters make an incalculable difference when you are running a race. Cheers are never, ever unwelcome.


I felt that we were in it together. We were doing it for each other. And we were halfway! Maybe I could do it after all, and maybe, MAYBE, it was worth it.


Though I had devoted so much attention and preparation to avoiding hitting the physical Wall, I had devoted nothing to avoiding this emotional wall. No one had warned me about it, no one had told me how to prevent it, no one had prepared me for how to deal with it. Was I the only one feeling these things? Of course I assumed that I was, and I felt like the most pathetic runner of the pack.


My father placed his hand beneath my chin and lifted it to meet his gaze. “You will finish this. You have done the hardest part. You are strong.” I bleated about…my tiredness, my despair. He wouldn’t have it. He would not countenance the idea that I might not finish. There was no arguing with his calm granite faith.


I guess my point is: if you’re in the middle of a hard mile, you’re NOT ALONE. And if you know someone who’s in the middle of a hard mile? Be that raucous person with granite faith.

You’re appreciated more than you know.




14 thoughts on “Handling the Hard Miles

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