How Running Taught Me to Believe in the Process

Last trail before surgery and it was perfection!
When it’s just you, it’s so much harder to trust that the process will yield positive results.

When we are out there preparing for the next marathon and even one mile at goal pace feels like a race, we runners doubt ourselves. Even after a flawless training season, we doubt ourselves.

Am I really supposed to be able to do another 25 miles at this pace? Really?

We do the training, building aerobic capacity and the strength for speed. We practice fueling, pacing, and holding it together when we feel like shit. We build focus and confidence so we don’t blow up when it doesn’t go exactly as planned. We prepare for what we can control, which sometimes feels like everything and sometimes feels like nothing. Even when we follow our training plan and do everything by the book, why is it still so hard to believe it will work for us?

Believing in the process isn’t just about running. All around us every day incredibly complex tasks, like bridge construction, commercial air travel and surgery, all require millions of processes converging at the right moment. To live, we have to believe in these processes; that the bridges we travel over will not collapse, that the plane we’re on won’t crash, and that our surgeon won’t make a mistake. If it is so easy to believe in the processes that make up our industrialized world, why is it so hard to believe in the processes that are ours?

Two months ago, my logs here and on Strava mysteriously disappeared after the Columbus Marathon when a crisis in my life blew up and a bunch of things in my life changed. I felt trapped. I worried about anything and everything, my insomnia went from bad to terrible and running went out the window. I needed Xanax just to make it through Thanksgiving dinner. I am definitely not the first, and far from the last, person to find herself suddenly stuck in a bad episode of anxiety and depression.

In the old days, I would have stewed for months or years, but I’ve come to learn that other people are wiser than me. As we runners do, I turned to my running friends for guidance. When you are trapped in depression, it is difficult to imagine that someone else has seen it all before: good days, bad days, big changes, bad marriages, therapists, years of insomnia, unreachable doctors, medications, lessons, changes. I listened to everyone else’s stories on life and problems. I spent a lot of time in Salty’s basement and I’ve come to find that almost everyone I know has been depressed or on a psychiatric medication at some point. I’m not the only one to have a crisis. I have to trust my friends when they say it all works out. As a result, I ended up in a therapist’s office and on medication within weeks instead of years this time. Believing in the process means trusting something or someone because it has probably worked before. No. It worked before, many times. You or I are not the first ones to have a life crisis or use that training plan or have a bad workout.

Jasmine crossing her fingers
I’m working on it.

I’m having a really hard time. It is difficult to let go and accept that the process is working. It is hard to put faith in all of the people that came before us who tested and perfected the process. Just as we do in running, I have to trust my therapist, my doctors, clinic coordinator, labs, the medications and my friends. Sometimes it feels like blind trust that may or may not work, but it isn’t really much different than believing in the process of marathon training. I thought I would be back here announcing big dreams. Instead I am back here announcing that I have to believe in a different process.

What I learned from running, and in particular training like an elite, is that our problems and anxieties are not unique. We have to put faith in other people and trust them; our coaches, the people who wrote our training plans, the meteorologist that tells us the weather tomorrow, even that the race will start on time or that our water bottle will be on a table exactly where it is supposed to be. Then on a perfect day, all of the pieces come together and we run the race of our lives because we had the courage to put our doubts away, to trust other people,  and to believe in the process.  

Has running helped you have more faith in your abilities, processes, yourself?

I'm a subelite marathon runner, but I didn't come from a collegiate running background. Instead I'm trying to break into competitive running in my thirties. I write about chasing the dream of running with the elite girls and tell stories of adventures along the way. Watch me chase the next big thing.

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10 comments

  1. Wow, this was beautifully written. Thanks for sharing. One of my favorite running quotes and pre-race mantras is, “Trust your training”. I think that applies here as well. Hugs from a former lurking Saltine.

  2. I hope you are doing ok! It seems like you’ve had an absolutely insane year of ups and downs, and I’m glad you were brave enough to share that you had to reach out for help. Hang in there.

  3. Excellent post, Jasmine. By the way, I hate flying but one of the ways to get over the fear is to just sit back and trust that process as it happens. One of my favorite quotes that is in line with this thinking comes from a fortune cookie: “To live your life in fear of losing it is to lose the point of life.”

  4. I can really identify with this too. Watching my marathon training actually work even after all the doubts and those bad workouts really showed me I can handle a lot more than I think and it’s translated to the rest of my life in a lot of ways and helped me get through those bad days and rough patches. I hope you feel better soon and thanks for sharing this!

  5. Running and training has definitely taught me nothing is permanent or forever. I can train my ass off, I can run ultras…. But if I stop training or start eating terribly, it’s all going away!

  6. This post is so personal Jasmine and you have no idea how close this hits home to me. Running has been the one constant in my life that has kept me grounded and “trusting the process”. Right now I am probably the happiest I have ever been in my life, but that was after coming out of the very dark clouds of the worst time in my life. Almost exactly two years ago, I was recovering from a pelvic stress fracture that I developed from over training. I was unable to run for 16 weeks. It was a very trying time for me, but luckily I was still able to swim, spin, and I took up one of my newest passions in life- indoor rowing. At the tail end of this recovery, where I was slowly slipping back in to running again, planning my racing schedule, finding my running bliss – I found out I was pregnant. Pregnant with child #5!!!! To say I was shocked and surprised was putting it very lightly. At this time in my life I was on medication for anxiety. I guess I have always been an “anxious” person, but it was never clearly outlined to me until I was going through some family therapy for an issue my husband and I were having with my daughter. Long story short – I had to go off of that anxiety medication because it was too much of a risk to take while pregnant. Hindsight is a powerful tool. Looking back- I now realize going off of that medication was where my spiral downward started. I could have switched over to another medication that would be safer to take while pregnant but I chose not too. I had a difficult pregnancy with #5. I was extremely resentful towards my husband (yes, I know it takes two to tango, but lets just say I still think he takes on more of the “whoopsie” responsibility), I had horrendous all day “morning” sickness (this, while working full time, and trying to parent 4 other kids under the age of 8), and I was already living a life where every day I felt overwhelmed. Raising four kids (one that has special needs and a set of twins) is freaking hard. I also have to work, we cannot afford for me to stay home. I kept thinking my whole pregnancy -“what are we going to do, how are we going to survive, how are we going to handle five kids. FIVE??!!”. Fast forward to the birth of my son Josef. God, he is a blessing. He is beautiful and I see now that he completes our family. He was always meant to be here. Unfortunately, though, it should come as no surprise that just three short weeks after his birth, I was diagnosed with severe postpartum depression. My mother had to actually drive me to the hospital the day I went in. I couldn’t even keep it together to go see the doctor. For the first 7 months of his life, I did an excellent job of shutting everyone out. I could barely function. And, that was with being on medication for depression/anxiety. I had to have my medication adjusted twice. I had a very challenging and frustrating return to running with my postpartum recovery. When I was getting the epidural for the birth of Josef, the Anesthesiologist hit spinal fluid. I ended up getting three epidurals in a 12 hour period. Because of that, I had to go through many months of sciatica and treatment for it (I still deal with it to this day at times). I waited until almost the last minute and decided to sign up for the Columbus Marathon. I am so glad I made that decision. That race was my perfect day. Where all the pieces came together and I trusted the process. I ran the race of my life that day. I overcame tremendous doubt that I carried with me for two years. I went in to that race hoping to get a 3:40 so that I could BQ and get back there (I ran Boston in 2013). I ended up running a 3:33. I PR’d by almost three minutes. I ran my heart out that day. I cried, I smiled, I just enjoyed every single step. I was so happy to be there. To be able to run that marathon. To have so many people surrounding me in support and believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself. I reflect back on that day and on the past two years often. I truly believe that things happen for a reason and I see so much truth in that with my life the past two years. I am sorry this is so long, but I had to share. I have really strong feelings about anxiety and depression. I feel that there is such a stigmata of shame that surrounds it. I wish more people would talk about it and come forward to share their experience. I am living proof that even in our darkest of days, we can persevere.

    1. Michelle, I did not realize all that you went through in the last few years. It is crazy how similar our internal experiences have been. And we still haven’t met! I remember you commenting on a few of my posts a few years back as we were training with similar goals. Around the same time as you, I ended up going through an intense round of therapy for anxiety and depression. Thank you for sharing! I hope to meet you sometime soon- maybe at a Salty run if the weather cooperates!

      1. Ginger- I would love to meet you!! I really wanted to come to the two Salty run’s over my X-mas break, but it didn’t quite gel with my family and our schedule. I love following your running! I am sure we have a lot in common that we could talk about and relate:).

  7. Thank you for sharing such a personal part of yourself in this post.

    This could not have come at a better time for me as I struggle through a taper while fighting a hamstring injury, PMS, allergies, feeling bloated, out of shape and out of breath as I wait for the gun to go off Sunday morning. There have been times in my life when I’ve lost everything, but it’s those times when you find out that “everything” wasn’t all that important, and looking back now I have total faith in the process. I don’t have a specific process in mind, all I know is that no matter what – everything is going to be all right. It doesn’t matter how hard the struggle, and it doesn’t really even matter how it ends. Everything will work out exactly as it is supposed to. THAT’S my process for the hard stuff.

    This week, the process I’ve got to focus on believing is that I’ve trained hard enough, long enough, to run my best race (so far!) on Sunday morning. Whether I get the results I dare to strive for is yet to be seen, so meanwhile I’ll take a deep breath, remind myself that I am brave, and remind myself to trust in the process.

  8. This is a great question. I trained for my first marathon as a way to make it through the biggest personal crisis in my adult life, the unraveling of an almost 18 year marriage and estrangement from my disapproving parents. When I returned to running a few years later, I got injured from running my training paces like races and had to learn the hard way to take my easy days truly easy. It has taken a long time but I am now getting faster because I have learned to trust the hard/easy training prescribed for me rather than my previously unsuccessful way of treating each run as a race and calling all of the shots myself. I’m sure that being patient, seeing incremental improvement over time and trusting the judgment and experiences of others has been beneficial in other aspects of my life. Running has also helped even out the stresses in my life and make them matter less.