The Unexpected Struggle: A Life Lesson From Yet Another Run

You’d expect me to talk about the usual runner’s struggles on race day: the cramps, the mental fatigue, the heavy legs, the lack of fuel. But my recent experience threw me into a whirlwind of unexpected emotions, ones that went beyond the usual challenges.

This wasn’t just any race; it was a relay marathon with a team of five runners, each taking on different legs of the journey. I was entrusted with the final stretch, running the last 9.3 km (of 42.2 km or 26.2 miles for context). As I set off, a wave of negative emotions washed over me. Was it guilt? Sympathy? Perhaps a mix of both. I felt unworthy of the cheers from the spectators. “I just started!” I thought to myself, and a strange sense of cruelty gnawed at me as I passed the exhausted runners who had already clocked over 30 km and were hitting their wall.

With fresh legs, I felt compelled to explain myself to everyone, “You’re the real MVP, I’m only running the relay!” The feeling of needing to justify my situation to complete strangers was something I never anticipated. It threw me off balance, leaving me questioning my role and my right to the encouragement I was receiving.

It’s like starting a new job where everyone else has been grinding for months or joining a project halfway through and feeling like you don’t deserve the credit because you missed the initial struggle. Ever been there?

In my mind, I constructed a narrative of inadequacy and unworthiness. I projected these feelings onto the spectators and the other runners, assuming they saw me as an intruder or a fraud. But the reality? The runners I passed never said anything negative. The spectators never questioned my effort. This entire scenario was a creation of my own insecurities and self-doubt.

Here’s the life lesson: It’s not always about how long or hard you’ve worked compared to others. Your journey is valid, whether you’re starting fresh or finishing strong. Repeat after me: YOUR JOURNEY IS VALID. Don’t let comparison steal your joy. Everyone has their own race to run, and every leg—whether short or long—matters.

Just as the other runners had their unique challenges and triumphs, so did I. And the same goes for you. Whether you’re picking up the baton at the start, middle, or end of your journey, your role is significant and worthy of celebration. This applies to so many facets of life beyond running: starting a new career when others are seasoned experts, joining a project mid-way when others have laid the groundwork, or even stepping into a parenting role when the journey has already begun for your partner. Whatever your “baton” might be, remember that your contributions are crucial. You are part of a bigger picture, and your role, no matter where you enter the scene, brings value and perspective.

It’s easy to get caught up in comparing our efforts to those who have been at it longer or faced different struggles. But your journey is yours alone, and it’s vital to honour that. Celebrate your unique path and recognize that your presence, effort, and achievements are integral to the overall success of the team, project, family, or even of your own success. Embrace your role with pride and let go of the need to justify your position to others.

So, keep pushing forward and celebrate your role in the journey! What unexpected challenges have you faced in your own ‘race’? Please share and let’s cheer each other on!

And if you’re looking for daily doses of inspiration, validation, and a bit of fun, follow me on Instagram @annickrauch. Let’s live fully and empower each other to find meaning and fulfillment in every step of our journey.

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