12 Realizations Runners Have When They're Hitting The Pavement

I've been running since I was in high school. I ran to get over breakups, to get in shape for prom and simply to have a moment when the world stood still.

Now, as I begin to train for the Chicago Marathon, I'm discovering a new realm of running. There are 12 things I've realized about myself — twelve discoveries that come to those who have the courage to put their feet to pavement. Here they are:

1. Music is your new best friend.

Running to music is the most therapeutic form of soul searching. The lyrics lead you to sift through the thoughts you've ignored, and the miles ahead provide the time to figure out what it all means.

Also, if you're anything like me, the music is never loud enough. There is nothing more exciting than making a new running playlist.

2. All aches and pains are welcome.

Sore calves the morning after a ten-miler goes from being a nuisance to a reality check that you're ALIVE. You're making moves and challenging your body. The sore muscles call out your progress and say, "Do this again tomorrow."

3. Socks become a conversation.

For my fellow runners and friends who are just getting into running, socks are suddenly a pretty big deal. Who cares what car you drive? If a man wants to impress me, let's see those socks.

4. The running path becomes your happy hour.

When I'm out running and see other runners, I want to go up and introduce myself. Runners meet runners while running. We meet while stretching. We bond over socks.

When I first started marathon training, I'd shy away from other runners, but now I think, "Hey... let's be friends."

5. You become a quote encyclopedia.

On the 90-degree days when your thighs are on fire and your body is begging you to stop, you will realize the power of words. My favorite motivational phrase is, "The body achieves what the mind believes." This one gets me to the next mile. Quotes remind you that someone else has done this and survived — you will, too.

6. You judge people who have had the same sneakers for over a year.

Time for a new pair; you never know where they'll take you.

7. You become a philosopher.

All you do when running is think, and even when you're not thinking, you're giving your soul an hour or two to breathe and take in the world around you. Every epiphany I've ever had, I owe to mile four. Not sure why, but this is when my inner Buddha just takes over.

8. The world is a tiny place.

Every time I'm out on the trails, I can't help but think that someone across the world is looking at the same sky, the same stars and maybe, running somewhere, just like I am. The core of who you are connects you to the world around you more than it sets you apart. That's a beautiful thing.

9. You're in charge.

Running is the only sport in which you're the driver, the coach and the team. Your success and progress lies squarely on your shoulders and the only person you have racing with you is you. You become your own biggest fan.

10. You learn to trust yourself.

When mind and body connect, the will to go a little bit further and a little bit faster doesn't seem so scary. You know your limits and you've learned your obstacles. You'll overcome them: you, yourself and a great pair of socks.

11. Water is delicious.

It's just so damn good.

12. You don't run for the minutes or the miles; you run to finish the race.

You run for you. You run because your very existence is a miracle and you're going to do something extraordinary. You run to keep that temple of a body pumping and glowing.

You run until you're drenched in sweat. You run for all of the people who said you couldn't. You smile because with every step, you lead a life of "I can — just watch me."

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