Problem Solving 101

As you all can probably see, I do not claim to be an expert. I do not claim to have all the answers. The only thing I claim is that I’m working my butt off to train for a marathon and get in better shape and the things I write about are things I’ve learned through my own experience.

One of the biggest benefits of running that I’ve learned, especially through marathon running and 2.5 hour + long runs, is that running is a beautiful and simple way to solve problems. On a four hour run there is you, your running shoes, the pavement/ gravel/ path of some kind, and your mind. Yes, some people run with partners or in groups of people, but personally I’m more of a loner runner and I’ll tell you why…

When I’m running, I am finally alone with my thoughts. Running alone gives you a chance to get inside your own head (dangerous – I know!). While many people may say this is the exact reason they don’t run, this reason may be the #1 for why I do!

Did you have a bad day? Did something go wrong at work that you just can’t put your finger on? Do you feel like you misinterpreted what your professor said in class? Do you feel like your to do list is exponentially growing in your mind but you haven’t had the time to organize it? – RUN! Literally, run. 

Four hours is an awfully long time to focus solely on music and even if you do have a running partner, I don’t know anyone who can consistently talk and run for four hours straight. (If you can, you’re amazing – keep doing you!). So start attacking that to do list. Run through your week that has happened so far and begin going through your week to come and mentally walk through the past and prepare for the future. Take a half hour or so to think about the lecture today that you didn’t quite understand at first. Run through your last conversation with your coworker when you believe things went awry and misunderstandings began to happen. This time and thinking allows you to be productive mentally while you are simultaneously being productive physically in a health-conscious way.

Did you and your partner have a fight last night and you just can’t get it off your mind? Did something they say just really irk you in the moment? — With long runs you have FOUR WHOLE HOURS to pick apart the conversation and look at it from any angle possible. Chances are by the end of that run, you will be able to see where your partner was coming from and will be significantly less irk-ed. (I know, you don’t believe me – but I promise I’m living proof this can happen). In the early stages of my long runs I decided it was a good idea to do 13.1 miles on a Monday morning BEFORE work (think start time of 5:30 am). It was Monday morning and I was already stressed out. My job had taken a significant toll on me in the weeks prior and things began to feel like they were crumbling in front of me and I could not stop them. From an outsider’s perspective, the last thing I needed to do was spend over two hours running. With those two hours I could have instead – checked my email, responded to all outstanding requests from my coworkers, prepped my first lesson plan for my first class, schedule a handful of meetings, and much, much more. Why would anyone ever choose to use that same amount of time to only run?? Well, let me tell you – for the two or three weeks prior to that Monday morning run, my coworkers would ask me how I was feeling about everything work-related and my response was always “overwhelmed.” That Monday, after spending my two hour long run thinking about my life, thinking over difficult situations, mentally preparing my first class, and making a to do list in my head, I for the first time since the start of the academic year responded to my coworkers by saying that I felt FANTASTIC! And what a difference that made in the week to come!

So, for the pessimists out there, you are welcome to have your opinion and doubt that this story is real, but do me a favor – give it a try yourself. I hope you have the same wonderful experience that I did!


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