Is Running The Bravest Thing You’ve Ever Done?

My Fake-Cousin Vik just started running and recently posted on Facebook that she was particularly proud of herself for running around her local park once without stopping. Being a runner, of course  I hit ‘like’, and I couldn’t help but joke that I was going to sign her up for the LA Marathon next year. She ‘LOL’d’ and wrote that she thought she would die if she did the marathon.

I remember how it felt when I first started running, doing a marathon was not even a possibility for me. There was just no way I could fathom running for 26.2 miles, so I smiled because a few years ago I would have said exactly the same thing.

80's kids

Me and my Fake-Cousin’s Ben and Vik, Disney Land circa 1986

A few days later, I stated reading “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown and I thought back to my Facebook banter with Fake Cousin Vic. The books starts with this terrific quote from Theodore Roosevelt:

“It’s not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles
or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena;
whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood,
who strives valiantly, who errs, who comes short again and again,
because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;
Who does actually strive to do the deeds;
who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions;
who spends himself in worthy causes;
who at best knows in the end triumph of high achievement
and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly”

Brene Brown explains that, to her, this speech is about vulnerability, which she suggests is defined as an individuals realization that it’s not about winning or losing, victory or defeat, but is about acknowledging that both possibilities exist, and still being ‘all in’.

She says we can chose whether or not to play the Game Of Life.

If we don’t want to play, we stay on the bleachers – we’re spectators, we eat popcorn, applaud and maybe hurl abuse at the ref once in a while. Perhaps, to some, it looks like we’re having fun, but at the end of the day, we’re just observers – we’re not participating in the game. The place where the action takes place is in the arena, and if you’re in the arena, then you’re playing the Game Of Life, you’re engaged and ‘all in’ – and sometimes your face is even dripping with ‘dust and sweat and blood’.

This decision whether to play or to observe takes courage.

What I realized has changed in me is that I’ve grown and developed the courage to call myself a runner which is something that takes time, and I bet will change for my fake cousin Vik too.

I think calling yourself a runner, and signing up for a 5k or 10k or half marathon takes BALLS. I mean once you’ve made that decision and told everyone, there’s no going back… you’ve declared to the world or at least the race organizers that you’re a runner and now you have to live up to it.

And whats more, once we sign up, we then have to overcome the ‘what ifs’…

What if I come in last?. .. What if I can’t finish? .. What if I get hurt?

You get them too, right?

Brene Brown says that this is our vulnerability and that “Our willingness to own and engage our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose”.

So every time we race, does that mean we’re engaging and owning our vulnerability? If so, that makes me extra proud to be a runner! It means we lean into that vulnerability every time we enter a race – we face that fear of failure, of not completing. We embrace that slim chance of winning and ‘own’ our vulnerability whenever we pin the race numbers onto our dry-wick t-shirts. We never know what might happen in the race, we might win, we might come in last. We might get horribly injured and have to get wheeled off in an ambulance… but regardless, we’re in the game. We’re really doing it. We’re risking failure, defeat, humiliation and judgement, and every time we finish a race, no matter how well we did, we know that our faces are marred by dust and blood and sweat.

Screen Shot 2013-09-01 at 6.14.38 PM

What do you reckon? Are Runners braver than we think?


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12 responses to “Is Running The Bravest Thing You’ve Ever Done?

  1. Love this post. It takes a ton of courage to run. There was so much doubt, so many excuses and so little belief that I could actually be a runner…it took years of half assed running before it finally clicked and now that it has…my mind, body and spirit are the stronger for it. So thankful still have a chance to be in the arena.

  2. Thank you for posting this because so many people don’t get how much it takes to start to do this. For me running is one of the bravest things I’ve ever done. It wasn’t when I first started doing it. But two years ago, my lungs filled with blood clots 5 days after I had my PR for a 5K. I spent 11 days in the hospital, underwent a risky treatment to bust up the clots and nearly died. The doctors still don’t know why I’m still alive. My lungs were damaged, the lining significantly thicker than normal and my diaphragm is now attached to my right lung from where the damage was. I went from being able to run easily to not being able to walk up a flight of stairs. The decision to start to run again took guts. But I did it. Ten months later I ran in my first 5K after the clots and Sunday I’ll be running my first half marathon. I’m not fast but I will finish and it will be a huge, huge victory for me.

  3. Another wonderful post, so glad you’re back at blogging.

  4. Very thought provoking post. I never thought about vulnerability as one of the reasons we run, but it makes sense. I think it could apply to any endeavor we undertake that pushes us out of our comfortable lives, whether it be cycling, creating art, or taking a trip alone. As long as we get out and do something, and not stagnate, then we’re truly living.

    • I think we’re vulnerable when we tell people that we are Runners. And when we enter a race we are declaring to the world that’s what we are. And with that declaration comes the risk of failure or looking bad, or coming last… I just think there’s some vulnerability in taking that risk and owning it.

  5. I’ve been running so long, I don’t really feel like it is a brave thing for me. I played soccer as a kid and did decently when we did mile time trials in PE. I joined the track team in 8th grade and have been running consistently since I was 16 (that’s over 20 years… dang, time flies). Stepping up to new distances and trying new events has brought uncertainty: Would I hit the wall in my marathon? Crash my bike during a tri? Still, I felt like if I found a good plan and did the work, I had a good chance of finishing and even achieving the times I set out to. For me, there is comfort in athletic training: put in the time, reap the results.

    I understand that for people who don’t have an athletic background, things are completely different. It takes tremendous courage for someone who has been sedentary for years and might be carrying a lot of extra pounds to take those early steps. A 5K might be unfathomable when a person might not even make it a quarter mile their first time out. They might wonder if they belong among the speedsters and the people who have been at this game for years. I have tremendous admiration for people who throw their shoes in the ring, and commit to their goals day in and day out because progress is slow. It hurts physically. It can be discouraging mentally. A million other things seem more appealing in the right now than putting in those miles. I know some of these people, and the world needs more of them.

    For myself, there are other things that make me feel vulnerable and require courage. Putting my writing out there, right now mostly as a blogger, requires some vulnerability. Consistency can get you to the finish line in a race, but can it make you a good writer? While I think I have become a good recreational runner, there are so many superior runners even at the local level that I can divorce myself from my race results to a point. Race times aren’t subjective, and even if I’m not happy with them, I always feel good that I was out there doing something. I want to get to that place with submitting my writing. Harsh criticism would probably crush me. I am afraid of rejection. I could follow a plan to a T and still never have a story accepted for publication. .

    Anyhow, great post. We all have things in our lives that we want to do that carry risk. Here’s to putting ourselves out there.

  6. I think you’re right. Everyone who pins on a race number is exposing themselves to their vulnerability – the possibility of failure. But they do so willingly and in the knowledge that it is their fear, their vulnerability, their bodies and minds that they are challenging. Are runners braver than other people? Probably not.
    Are they braver than they think? Probably.
    Braver than someone who says ‘I could do that’ but never tries. Definitely!

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