I have identified myself as a runner for about four years now. After spending most of my life being the epitome of a coach potato, it was surprising how quickly I fell in love with running once I chose to lace up my shoes and go. Running became my both a challenging pursuit and my self-care. However, when I left my below-sea-level state for the mile high city for graduate school, I found that the altitude and the work load stole my free time and my will power.

I have run dozens of 5ks, 5 half marathons, 4 marathons, and 1 ultra marathon. 2 years ago, choosing to run a 10k (6.2 miles) would have been a walk in the park but my lack of mileage and my inconsistent relationship with running, had me hesitating to register for this race. Despite my doubts, I eventually decided I would run the Bolder Boulder 10k to commemorate my time in Colorado. The registration site encouraged me “Be Bolder” but in the days leading up to the race, I was definitely feeling “Stupider”.

Since living in Colorado, I have raced two 5ks. After a year of not training and stress-eating, I was expecting to double that distance. I knew the race would be long, and I knew it would hurt, but I went out and did the thing anyway, hoping my legs would remember how to do that whole running thing.

*Heads up: this post is in no way sponsored or endorsed by BolderBoulder or anyone else. I just think a lot when I run.*

Memorial Day, 2017. The sun beat down on my shoulders as if it hasn’t just snowed the weekend before. (Colorado, amirite?) My friend, Maggie, is by my side, fully prepared to be both my cheerleader and coach. Our friend, Ashley, is to my left, and she has labeled herself our race-mom after driving us to the start line and being prepared to cheer us on along the way.

Normally, before a race, I get butterflies. Today, they are still just caterpillars. I’m excited, but because of the lack of training, all pressure to perform has been removed. My first goal: Finish. My second goal: Have fun. My third goal: Run the whole time.

It’s definitely a biased statement, but I believe that running shows us what being bold really looks and feels like in ways that we can transfer to other areas of our lives. The following are 6 lessons I learned during this race:

“Just think of all the metaphors this race has!” Maggie said as our wave moved closer and closer to the start line.

We agree to take it slow and run as long as we can. Runners surround us, many of them in costumes, and the joy of being done our graduate course work starts kicking in.

Ready, set, go! We’re off.

My body wants to sprint, but my lungs say, “Yeah, probably not,” and thankfully, my brain and Maggie agree.

Mile 1: Trust your training.

Or rather, your lack of it. Know the difference between challenging yourself and setting yourself up for failure.

After the first mile, I started feeling more warmed up. You know how to do this. Your body remembers. The race already felt like it was going by so quickly and I felt so sure I could finish, so I started to fantasize about the finish.

Mile 2: Pace yourself. 

Along the same lines of knowing how prepared you are for a race, pacing yourself appropriately is important. In life and running, I have struggled to pace myself, but I have learned that taking a goal one step at a time is a good place to start,

Mile 3: Be present.

This course was full of activities and sights to see. A lot of the time, I found myself pulling away from the pain and started thinking about other things. All fine and dandy, but also, it was a joy to just run and hurt a little bit and be very hot and hear all the sounds and be with all the runners.

Mile 4: Do the best that you can do. 

Comparing ourselves to others or even to our past selves can be motivational to an extent, but it can also be devastating.

I spent a lot of time prior to the race and throughout the race, comparing my present self to my past self, a runner who was smaller and faster and could run much farther and with less effort. I found myself catching those thoughts and had to constantly remind myself, That’s not who you are right now in this race. Give it all you’ve got today. Keep moving forward. 

Mile 5: Lean in to those who support you.

There is a quote about running that I feel fits well here: “If you want to run fast, run alone. If you want to run far, run together.” Although I was definitely not going to run fast without my support system today, I was able to run the farthest I’d run in a very long time because Maggie stayed by my side and offered me encouragement throughout.

The last little chunk of this race was uphill and I was starting to feel that lack of training. My ankles and calves were screaming at me and I fought to keep running. I was going so slowly that I probably could have walked faster, but I said I would run the whole time and so I kept going.

Mile 6: When your body is tired, run with your mind (or heart). 

I struggle to push through and finish strong. I couldn’t seem to get enough air, but as I ran around the stadium, surrounded by other tired runners, I felt just enough of their good energy to push myself across the finish line.

Mile 6.2: Celebrate victories, no matter how small.

Half of me knew I could cross that finish line and the other half of me was amazed. Two years ago, this distance would have been another training run, but on Memorial Day, 2017, finishing the BolderBoulder 10k was a little victory full of lessons along the way that I won’t soon forget.

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That’s what I love about running. In every season, running can teach us some of life’s most important lessons. Today, as I prepare to graduate, I am also preparing for a new race: life outside of school. I’ve got the training down, I’m prepared to pace myself and stay present (especially during the ceremony instead of thinking about what’s next), to bring my best, to lean into those who support me, to run with my heart, and to celebrate victories along the way.

And if I forget to do these things? I’ll lace up, go for a run, and remember what it feels like to be bold.

– Sarah Hudak –

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