How Gratitude Made Me a Better Runner, Leader

I am not a fast runner, never have been. For a long time, the only reason I ran is because the Army said I had to. In some cases, quite a bit… but mostly just the 2 miles required for our fitness test. Now, as a leader of soldiers I have to get my soldiers to run enough to pass their fitness test. This has proven difficult given my current ability to run is not exactly inspirational.

For most of my military career, I would consider myself (at best) a willing runner. However, I recently stumbled into a thought that has transformed my approach to running. It has made me a better runner. Beyond a willing runner, I actually look forward to getting out and running (even in the stifling Florida heat sometimes). It is the thought that one day I may not be able to run. One day my body will not allow it. My bones, muscles, joints will not allow me to run. To experience the freedom of running. There is a sense of freedom when you run. I mean think about it, running is one of the most natural things we do as humans and we do it so early in life.

You crawl. Then you walk. Then you move your feet faster.. and Boom! You’re running. You are free to move like you have never moved before.

The thought of losing this freedom was very surreal. It brought great clarity. More than that, it made me grateful for the ability I have now. More grateful than I had ever been to just run. I experienced a renewed perspective and even a sense of joy. It felt like finding something I had lost.

The Tarahumara and Running for the Joy of It

There is an indigenous people group in Mexico known for their ability to run tremendous distances. The Tarahumara. I had never heard of them prior to reading the book Born to Run.

Apparently they can run hundreds of miles over the course of days with very little rest. Sounds crazy right? I mean, I thought a marathon was pretty tough but imagine doing 10… sometimes barefoot!

Anyway, the thing that struck me about the Tarahumara people is why they do it. In the past it served a purpose; mainly evading invaders and pursuing wild animals. But now? They run for fun. Because they enjoy it. When running they are often described as having smiles on their faces. They run with a contagious joy.

Living and Leading

There is a lesson to be learned here.

We should live with a contagious joy. We should lead with a contagious joy. It has been my experience that this joy comes from being grateful.

For me it all comes back to the thought that one day, I will not be able to ________. It could be something as small as run or as large as spending time with my Wife.

This is a sobering thought. Everything in your life can be taken away in an instant. It could be something as minor as your ability to run or as major as your most valued loved one.

Perhaps you have experienced this and it is a tragic reality for you.

However, this truth crystallizes the value of today. Living and leading with a purpose. Living and leading with a sense of joy and gratitude.

I stood in front of my soldiers recently and shared this insight with them (it happened to be before a run). The day is coming where I will not stand before them as their leader.

At least this transition is predictable but the lesson remains the same and I want them to embrace it. Who knows, maybe they will run a little faster in the process.

More importantly, perhaps they will live with a contagious joy.

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