Running a race is a great metaphor for life. Thinking back on the classic story about the tortoise and the hare, we learned that consistency outperforms skill when the tortoise beat the hare. Running teaches us to keep our eye on the prize, as they say. Each race has its literal highs and lows, that we can easily compare to life’s highs and lows. The similarities and lessons are endless.
We’ve also learned that running is great for our physical and mental health. Our heart and mind both benefit from this exercise. Our muscles are strengthened, our stress is reduced, our lungs are filled, and our hearts are lightened. Even those that hate running, often run anyway, and still reap many of the benefits.
Peter Sagal has had many unique interactions with running. During the infamous Boston Marathon bombing incident, Peter was guiding a blind runner through his first Boston. They finished just five minutes before the bombing occurred. The difference between running the last mile, or taking a walking break was a literal life or death situation for the duo.
As an author, the host of NPR’s “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” and a father, Peter always makes time for running. When asked how he manages to get in a five-mile run every day he compares it to eating. “I just manage it because I have to,” says Sagal. Just like you always find time to eat, Peter always finds time to run.
He has found something priceless in running—something that will keep him running for years to come.
THIS WILL END
One of Peter’s prized lessons he has learned from running, is that running always has an end. Whether we perform the way we intended to or not, the race or the run will end. This is an invaluable principle for life.
During a time of trials and depression, Peter held onto this idea. “There is a tendency when you are down in the depths to think that you will never get out,” says Peter, “One thing we know from running is that Yes it will.”
When faced with trials you can know that they will end. Circumstances will change. The practice of running is just that, practice. And as you practice this skill of pushing through the tough runs, and enjoying the good ones, you will be more prepared for the good and bad in life.
Adapt Your Motivations
Motivation is fluid. What did or didn’t motivate you as a child has changed. You probably no longer run because you are being chased by bullies on the playground or avoiding catching the cooties. Finding something new to motivate your reason for running should be a joyous one, not a painstaking chore.
Now that Peter knows he will likely never beat his personal best, he has found other rewarding motivations. He has guided multiple blind runners during marathons and says it has been extraordinarily gratifying. “If you are feeling bad, go out and help someone,” Peter says, “You will feel so much better.”
The running community has so many opportunities to help other people. Volunteering at a race, pacing a runner, running for charity, or leading a blind runner are just a few options.
Another motivating aspect Peter now loves is marathon tourism. He has run marathons in a handful of cities and plans to do others around the world. Keep your running fresh by volunteering, going for a PR, running in a new city, or anything else that comes to mind.
Life is Unfair, But You’re in Control
Everyone has their demons and burdens. It’s best not to judge because we don’t know the details of each person’s life. It’s also important to not be too hard on yourself. Your own battles are unique and tough. Don’t judge yourself based on others.
However, whatever unfair things have happened to you, you can now take responsibility for what you do. Choosing to mope in bed because you have a challenge that someone else doesn’t won’t get you anywhere positive.
Decide today that you will give your best effort. Then give that best effort and be proud of the results. “Try to be the best version of yourself that is practical to obtain,” says Peter. If you can agree to do that, you will find that comparing yourself to others is completely unnecessary for a happy life.
Peter on The Hilarious World of Depression
(book) The Complete Book of Running
(book) The Incomplete Book of Running
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Thank you to Peter, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the show.