In less than a month, I’ll be running my second LA Marathon. Which means I’m running a lot right now, and thinking a lot about running, the lessons running has taught me. For example:
1. Quitting just teaches you to be good at quitting. Not every run is a good one and I don’t feel like running every day. But quitting in the middle of a run, stopping short before I’ve reached whatever goal I’ve set that day, well that just reinforces quitting. And I want to be good at carrying through, finishing. Sometimes, I get rejection after rejection in the mail—my poems are only lists, the journal is full, no reason. Sometimes the political/personal/social fight feels too hard. But quitting only teaches you how to quit. You can always run another mile, send out another poem.
2. Everything is better after a long run. Everything. The first mile may feel terrible, my body may ache, may cramp. But push through that first mile, start working on regulating my breath, and by mile three or four, the world starts to look up. The kinks are worked out and I start to feel my body do what I want it to do. Keep going, my body seems to be saying. Right now may feel like hell, but give it a minute, an hour.
3. Be generous. Fundraise. Running is a solitary sport for the most part. And it can feel self-centered, self-absorbed. Sometimes I think that if I spent every hour that I usually run being a good activist instead, maybe some change would come to this world. So I’ve decided, if I’m going to dedicate the time it takes to run a marathon, I’m only going to do it for a good cause. My first marathon, I helped raise $3,400 for Global Water, an organization that helps people around the world have access to clean water. That still feels good.
4. Listen to everyone’s opinion. Research heavily. Then do what you think is best. My mother hates that I run, thinks it’s ruining my body. But my body started ruined: clubbed feet, thalassemia, RSD. And the research shows overwhelmingly that running is good for keeping us healthy long term. It’s good for depression, good for the common cold. So even though my mother hates it, even though friends tell me my knees are going to give out any day, I still run. And I love it.
5. My dad was right: run like hell. Then keep going. No matter what, no matter how bad. Start running and don’t look back.
Andrea Scarpino is the west coast Bureau Chief of POTB. You can visit her at: