What You Can Learn From A 5-Mile Race

On Monday I went to the first run of the Long Island Summer Run Series at Heckscher Park. My good friend Glen was running with his running group and I’d never been to a race like this before so I thought it might be good to see what it was all about. And I wanted to show support for my college roommate.

Glen and I met on move in day at SUNY Oneonta in 2007. We ended up living together all 4 years and have remained good friends ever since then. He’s always been a runner. He also has an inspiring and positive personality.

2,500 people showed up for this five-mile race. We got there at 6 PM about an hour before start time to scope out the course and meet up with a few of Glen’s friends from his running group. It was warm with just enough breeze to keep you cool as the orangey glow of the sunset was pouring over the lawn. Eventually I was left on my own as he went for a warm up run and to get a good spot behind the starting line.


Perfect day for a run

Perfect day for a run

I was really taken back by the diversity of the people that showed up for this thing. There was someone at the event representing every age, sex, color, and body type there is. As I walked around I heard bits and pieces from all the different people commenting on their goal times, how much weight they’ve lost, the last race they were in, and who they were running for. You could definitely feel the positivity in the air as the runners were shaking hands and saying good luck and talking about their individual goals.

Everyone’s got a reason. Every runner is motivated by something within themselves whether it’s deeply personal like running in honor of a 5K-running mother who passed 5 years ago, running to lose some weight, or running to beat your personal best race time. Some people run because they need something to work towards, something to give them a reason to exercise while others do it as a stress reducer, a form of meditation, or as brief escape. Each individual has his or her own custom designed motivators. All of which, generally speaking, come from seeking ways to ease suffering and not to amplify it.

It’s so important to recognize the power of the individual. If you’ve never run before, then before you can consider running a five-mile race you have to hold yourself accountable to get up and go for a run. That’s where it all has to start. Once you’ve made it to the end of the block, go to the next one. Say you hit one mile, then you shoot for two tomorrow. If you are committed and make the right decisions every day will get easier. In a month you’ll be able to run more than you could last month. Every day will be better than the last because you are progressing.

I’m not saying it’s easy by any means. It’s really hard to hold yourself accountable to yourself sometimes (anyone every try to go on a diet?) but the most important lessons in life and greatest feelings of accomplishment and success often come from great sacrifice.

Once you’ve made it a couple miles you might try running with the company of someone else who can run 3 miles. The two of you can work on getting to 4 miles together. That person might even already be at 5 miles and they might encourage you to get there. They might be able to tell you some tips and tricks about how to get to 5 miles more efficiently and in a way that is honest and gratifying. They could possibly know a few people who like to run 10 miles.

By now you’re probably feeling more and more confident. You’ve hit a few goals. Exceeded them even. Now you’ve set new goals and you keep working. Before you know it, you’re onto your first race. You don’t place very high but you still did it and now you have set another bar for yourself.  Then there are four miles behind you and instead of suffering through one more, you begin to see yourself tackling the next 5, with ease.

Look at how you have improved. You feel better. You look better. You now know that it IS possible. You know you CAN do it because you have done it. Look at the friends you made and how your life has been improved by their presence in it. Look at how THEIR life has improved because of YOUR presence in it. You’ve crossed old goals off the list and replaced them with new, bigger, even more ambitious goals.

That’s just you. Now think about the other 2,499 people in the race. Think about the friends they’ve made and how their lives have improved. Think about the goals they’ve crossed of their list. Think about how much weight THAT GUY lost. Think about how incredible it is that 2,500 of you came together to participate. That’s not including the volunteers and organizers that worked to pull it all together for you. None of those snacks of cups of beer set themselves up afterwards. There are the guys directing parking, police presence for security, and folks handing out water during the race. Then there’s just the family members, girlfriends, boyfriends, and other loved ones there to cheer you on. Each person contributed his or her own unique qualities to make sure everything went smoothly. It’s nothing short of a miracle that we’re able to come together and make these types of events happen.


Glen beat his last 5 mile time by 1:15 to place 2nd in his age group. Here he is at the finish line.

Glen beat his last 5 mile time by 1:15 to place 2nd in his age group. Here he is at the finish line.

You probably would not have made it there if you didn’t hold yourself accountable to get up and go for a run in the first place. Someone else may have not made it there had they not been inspired by your pursuit. You may never have met that special person and they may never have met you. The spider-web of positive outcomes and chance encounters will continue to grow as you work to better yourself from within. Strengthening yourself will in turn strengthen those around you.

At the end it was all smiles and congratulations. Glen placed 2nd in his age group and 18th overall (out of 2,500 people!). Everyone was high-fiving and talking about their finish time, saying congrats and great job to their running mates, laughing, and drinking crappy beer. It’s a great feeling to watch people you care about succeed at what they love. It’s a great reminder to stay on course of what you love.