Ten things I learned while running in all 50 states
I did a combination of Marathons and half Marathons in all 50 US States over a period of about 11 years. This was longer than any job I've had (or anything else I've ever done) and between the duration and number of places I visited I learned a lot.
1. How to travel well
I went from packing multiple suitcases, staying in expensive hotels and eating at chain restaurants to being able to fit everything I needed into a small carryon bag, staying with friends or at Airbnbs, eating at locally owned diners and supporting other local businesses.
Some races went better than others. It would have been easy to give up after any of the bad ones but I kept going because I knew that I was working towards a bigger goal.
3. Celebrate small wins
Some races were a grind and I got through them by literally cheering for myself at every mile marker.
4. The country is a big, beautiful place.
I've run through big cities, small towns, national parks, alongside oceans and a variety of other places. Every race was unique and I got to see some amazing things.
I was juggling running and travel with working full time and had to figure out when to take time off, make travel plans, train, etc... doing that repeatedly helped me learn to plan out other complex projects
6. Learning about different cultures
The more time I spent staying and eating locally, the more I got to know the people who lived in the cities I was running in. I heard some amazing stories and most of all I learned that people who live in different states and regions have a lot more in common with each other than we think.
7. Sharing my stories
As more people started to find out about my journey I started to get requests to speak at race expos and write posts for running and travel websites. I also ended up with some sponsorships and eventually published five books about my experiences. I've been able to use this skill to move other parts of my career forward since then as well.
8. Accepting results
Some races went better than I expected them to... and there were others that I trained hard for but couldn't get my legs to work through way I wanted them to on race day. I learned to accept all of my results and be proud of finishing regardless.
I wasn't a runner when I was younger. I was overweight and out of shape when I started running. The first time I tried to run, I barely made it more than 2 blocks when I had to stop and catch my breath. The first time I told someone I loved that I wanted to run a marathon they laughed at me.
But every time I reached a new milestone or completed a new race it made me feel good and showed me that I was capable of doing things I never thought I'd be able to do. This confidence carried over into other areas of my life as well.
10. How to improve my mental health
I started training for my first half marathon a few months after my mom passed away. Running became my version of meditation. It helped to take my mind off of things and gave me something to focus on. The first time I felt "normal" again was after I finished my first big race and knew my mom would have been proud of me if she had been there to see it.