A common trait of those who have been running for a while is recognizing the change that running has introduced into their lives. Those who run say they have changed. This is not surprising, if they had never done it before. On the contrary, it is those who become addicted to movement from being sedentary and admit that running-aside from allowing them to be in better shape-has changed them. In short, those who run discover that they can be something and someone different from how and what they thought they were. Running reveals aspects of character that were unknown.
Building character or revealing character?
Another way to define the slow work that running causes on those who practice it is what is known as “character building.” In this case, the expression has at least two meanings: “character” can mean either the set of psychological and moral characteristics of people or the endurance, the substance of people. Exactly as it is said that someone “has character,” possessing it means having the ability to endure adversity and effort by reacting to it.
The first realization of having character is manifested in those who start running by noticing that they can do it, that they have the constancy to follow a program, that they stay true to the commitment they made to themselves: to train consistently, to run as never before.
However, it can also be thought that “character building” can only take place if a mind capable of governing such a change is the one doing it: no one can reveal character who does not possess it; no one can change to such an extent that his or her nature is distorted. It is fairer to think that those who discover that they have the character to make running one of the most important and foundational activities of their lives actually demonstrate that they have always had it. Therefore, it is more correct to think that running reveals true character more than building it from nothing.
Those who lack constancy and willpower do not build them by running, and those who never had them but discovered through running that they were capable of setting goals and making commitments actually possessed a dormant character, which running revealed.
When you start running you make a commitment, especially to yourself. When one continues to honor this commitment it is because character and determination allow it.
Do it slowly
All this does not happen suddenly. At first one may be surprised to have the strength to do something never done before and to be able to endure labors that were unthinkable until recently, but it is equally true that this process is slow. As exciting as one may experience at first because of the continuous and obvious improvements, it is afterwards that the true character is revealed: when one struggles more and more to file down those seconds per kilomete , when one has the perception of being somewhat stuck in one’s evolution as a runner, as if one has already reached one’s limits.
From that point on, another strength of character is revealed: it is no longer that of fulfilling the commitment made but becomes that of someone who stubbornly continues to train even though improvements are harder and harder to see. This is also a way of revealing character: in the patience and determination one is able to express. For what is determination if not the ability to remain focused in one direction regardless of results? How many successful sportsmen have achieved their goals after many, many failed attempts? Staying true to one’s vision is what determination is all about. And this can have many faces: from continuing to run even if you don’t see results to building a state of form that will express itself in competition in a very long time.
And here are the other last two components: patience and endurance.
Running allows improvements that may be imperceptible at certain times. At other times, it requires self-denial: there are no obvious results and it just feels like making an immense effort without getting discernible results.
In these times of poor results, the only reward we can hope for is the satisfaction of having been able to train regardless of the results.
As mentioned, it takes a lot of time and … character. To move forward regardless of stopwatch and fitness. To not give up because no change or improvement is seen.
You have embarked on a difficult and very long journey. The purpose is to discover sides of you that you didn’t think you had, that sometimes you didn’t even suspect might belong to you. It is difficult at this point to say whether running has changed you and transformed you into someone you didn’t think you were, revealing it.
In fact you gave the first manifestation of your character when you took your first running steps. On the other hand, you showed determination when you kept at it.
In the end, running means taking a certain direction: toward yourself. Use this activity to discover and reveal oneself.
And eventually you will have to confess to yourself that the most upsetting thing was not finding out that you were able to run but that you wanted to keep doing it.
You did it and revealed your true character. Because the journey of running, in the end, is above all a journey of self-discovery. About yourself.