Obstacles Can Make You Stronger

Ever had a terrible training run?  Of course, who hasn’t?!  It’s part of the game.  I’ve said this many times, running is a beast that can never be tamed.  We can try.  We can wrangle it in and make it our own over time.  It becomes more tolerable and perhaps even enjoyable.  Yet, at some point, the beast jumps back into beast mode just to remind you who is boss.


Here’s the thing; those horrible, terrible, no good, ugly runs can actually make you stronger.

As we wind down to race week for many people (and many others are racing in the near future) I start hearing the rumblings of self doubt and concern.  What about that week that I had to take off because I had the flu or a terrible head cold?  Remember that week that work was crazy and I skipped a few runs?  I tried to fit my 20 miler in, but my stomach cramped up on me and I couldn’t finish.

These things happen.  Perhaps you fought back from injury.  Maybe you were sick for a week and had to make a comeback.  I bet there was a time that a long training run kicked your butt.  Great!

Every single one of those hurdles has made you a better and smarter runner.  Going into race day knowing that you fought through those battles and came out alive is a confidence boosting experience.


The marathon (or any endurance event for that matter) is a rollercoaster of emotions.  There are highs and there are terrible lows.  There are points during the race where you will feel great and there will be times that will make you question your ability to finish.  It is going to happen.  When it does, you can push those feelings of self doubt out of the way.  You can stare at the difficult moment and remind yourself that you have already been here.  You have struggled in the past, and it sucked.  But you got through and now you have the confidence that you can push through again.

Had you not experienced struggles, had you not messed up during training, had you not cried your way through a run, you wouldn’t know what the lows would feel like.  Knowing that it will be hard and that you can push through will get you to the finish.

These lessons go further than just race day.  Every struggle you have throughout your running career is a lesson moving forward.

When you deal with injuries, you learn when you can push yourself and when you must sit back.  You learn that it will get better and you also learn how to take care of yourself.  You become a smarter runner and you learn your limits.

When you have a bad race, you learn from your mistakes.  Maybe you didn’t fuel properly or were dehydrated.  Perhaps you need to prepare a bit more or get more rest.


The blisters, the scrapes, the stomach cramps, they are all lessons for us.  Be confident in your abilities and be proud of pushing through.  Wash away those words of self doubt and remind yourself that you can, you have, and you will!

10 thoughts on “Obstacles Can Make You Stronger

  1. This made me think of the hub’s favorite movie, the Legend of Bagger Vance. One of the lines is “What I’m talking about is a game. A game that can’t be won, only played.” I think for most of us runners, races can only be run, not won. Our game is playing against the clock (sometimes), and even more, with our own heads.

  2. It is perfect timing – another blogger this week wrote about her rough training last week and called last week “a jerk” 🙂

    What I said, which I truly believe, is that the great thing about running a marathon is that it is a metaphor for life – the ups and downs, hard and easy parts, and so on. The same is true for running in general – not every day, not every run is great. It is important to work through the crappy runs as it is to celebrate the good ones. Because both teach us things!

    And to be upset at all of this stuff … it is NORMAL. We are all so quick to marginalize our feelings – having crappy runs, a lousy day at work, someone getting your order wrong, a bad haircut (yes, even with my ‘little boy’ haircut it happens) and so on. It is OK to lean on our spouses or friends about all of this crap, that is what they are there for. We should never think ‘oh these aren’t REAL problems’ – sure someone else has it much worse, but it is important to validate and experience our own emotions.

    But remember that feeling down and having crappy runs is a normal part of life and running – without valleys the peaks are just a plateau.

    • 100%! Those feelings are real and it’s OK to stay in the moment and feel them. And then it is good to reflect and use those as lessons moving on. How did you move forward? What worked? What do you regret. It will happen again and knowing how to approach those crappy moments is so helpful. Running truly is a metaphor for life. The marathon absolutely is. We can’t beat ourselves up for bad runs. We often have little control over that!!

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