I’m one of those people that believes running is the best (or one of the best) metaphors of life. My biggest takeaway from pounding the pavement? Stop staring down.
Why you may ask? Thanks for asking, let me tell you.
1. Because the easy thing isn’t always the right thing.
Usually, I’m hanging my head low and staring at the ground as I run because I’m tired and it feels easier. But like most things in life that are easy, it’s not actually good for you. By keeping your head up and your eyes focused on what’s in front of you, you align your body more properly which is obviously better for your running in the long-run. When I get tired, I focus on the mechanics: how are my arms moving, where is my head, how’s my breathing. Although it might not feel easier once I correct myself it, I know that it’s better for me and that gives me the mental strength to go on.
2. Because for every one interesting thing you see pass beneath your feet, you miss twenty things passing around you. I was running and saw something about being the emperor scrawled onto the sidewalk. I’m always looking for an distraction so I pondered on it for a few seconds. But sure enough, once I refocused and brought my head up, I realized all the dizzy-ing things around me. Graffiti murals, other people’s faces, store displays, oh and you know, the whole Manhattan skyline. I mean I’m lucky enough to run with a view of the Empire State building everyday, at the least, I ought to look at it. Suddenly, I’m distracted for ten minutes at a time, not just a few seconds. If your head is always down in life, you’ll miss so many things that can motivate and stimulate you.
It’s also important to keep your head up because you have to see the horizon. Sometimes it’s tough to look in the distance and be like, I have so far to go. But once you reach it – no matter the distance, no matter how long it takes you – it is always a feeling of accomplishment. If you’re always looking at your feet, you can’t assess how far you’ve gone and so you missing those rejuvenating and validating moments.
3. Because you won’t ever trip.
They always say that when you fall, you have to get back up. The actual lesson of this maxim is about enduring the pain (physical and mental) of getting back up. I remember the exact moment I fell for the first time when running. I had been running for a solid 6-months or so, I was running anywhere from 7-10 miles on the regular but still didn’t consider myself a runner. I was making my way through a residential area of Los Angeles. It was a sunny day, and I was feeling good. I was maybe 20 minutes in and about to hit the zone that would keep me going for the next 60 minutes. Maybe 10 yards before an intersection, my toe hooked the sidewalk and I came crashing down onto my hands and knees. I did’t even have to look up to know there was probably about 5 or 6 cars that I had witnessed my spectacular drop. Instantly, I thought about turning back. I mean I hurt myself, that was a good reason to stop right? I stood up and steeled my nerves. Fuck it, most of the cars that saw are going to drive off in the next 3, 2, 1 seconds and in a few minutes I’ll be off this road. I was a little scraped up and very embarrassed but fully functional. I slowly and steadily got my feet moving again.
The rest of my run went pretty well overall. When I got back to the apartment, I felt like a runner. I was a runner. It wasn’t the milage or the time, it was my belief that this is really important to me, so even though I messed up, it’s totally worth it to keep going. To say the least, I’ve fallen since then, often in front of many people, but I just take it with a grain of salt. If you play tennis, you will get hit with a ball; if you run, you will trip; if you act in life, you will experience a re-action in life. And that’s just the way it is. So accept it.