5 Life Lessons I’ve Learned As A Runner

Justin Horneker
5 min readMay 14, 2016


I am a running coach, I’ve helped runners of all different background reach their goals and have been doing so since I was still in high school… but more importantly;

I am a runner

I’ve been training at a high level for over 10 years now and with that I’ve experienced the emotional, physical and mental ebs and flows that come with it. However, you overcome the ebs and at the end you reach your reward… and it is the greatest feeling you could ever feel.

I can remember my pr races and it feels like I’m racing all over again — there is such a strong recollection that all you have to do is think back to that day when you need a reason to keep going.

So what? Not everyone is driven by prs and hitting times, but you can learn many life lessons by just sticking to a training plan.

So without further adieu —

5 life lessons I have learned as a runner:

Lesson 1: Success Is Not Linear

There’s this diagram I love that my colleague Chad always talks about.

This is true in running as well — see another diagram I love that shows how progressive overload works.

Having a coach is great because we can help you navigate these pitfalls better than you would be able to on your own, but overcoming the lows is why running can show you incredible highs. Learning the skills to come back from falling down teaches us resiliency, and runners are the most resilient people I know.

You will have pitfalls at some point in your training, but that is ok — it is the journey that matters in the long run.

Lesson 2: Hard Work Pays Off

There’s this growing trend of people thinking that running is easy, that you can throw on a pair of shoes and go run a race without any problems.

Like I said, it is all about the journey — the more you work during training the “easier” it will be on race day. Nothing about racing is easy but lining up on race day with confidence will go a long way to making sure you aren’t like the person who ran 3 times before a marathon and then complaining about their time(An actual example from a friend of mine).

There is no sweeter feeling in life than reaching a goal after putting in the hours upon hours of hard work to get there.

The ability to keep your head down and grind your way through a training plan will give you the guts and the discipline it takes to get ahead in the real world. The willpower that it takes to complete a marathon plan will set you up for success in all other aspects in life.

Lesson 3: You Get Back What You Put In

Not really a revolutionary idea, but in running you get back what you put in. The effort you put into to running is equal to the joy you feel when you reach the end. Just like in life; you get out of it what you put in to it — if you don’t work hard you won’t see much success/won’t feel the joy that comes with it.

It isn’t rocket science, success comes down to grinding it out and putting in the work, no gimmicks just going out there and pounding the pavement — day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.

Lesson 4: Recovery Is Necessary To Keep Growing

If you go too long without a break you will burnout; in work, in running, in any en devour really. I force my runners to take a one-two week break after every training cycle where their one job is to sit back and relax — watch bad tv and do things that help them recharge. They need to recharge mentally, physically and emotionally because a training cycle can deplete you in more ways than you might think.

A forced break because you shouldn’t wait until you feel burned out to take a break, at that point it is too late and the setback will be much longer than two weeks.

This isn’t just about recovery though, this is about growth!

The only way to see continuous growth in your training is to allow your body to fully replenish itself post race, post hard project. That way you can get back at it with your fitness still in tact and ready to attack the new plan with freshness and all of your energy.

Take a look at that progressive cycle graph again;

The only way to see continuous growth is to rest.

Lesson 5: Mindfulness — Focus On The Task At Hand

The last lesson running taught me, and perhaps the hardest one to learn.

The ability to stay mindful on the task at hand, know what you are doing and why you are doing it.

Have the ability to push the negative thoughts out and really hone in on accomplishing the task.

Something that comes with the solidarity of finishing a 40 minute tempo run and staying at the appropriate effort the whole time.

This helps me in life as well, mindfulness is what allows me to finish this article without focusing on all of the other things that are on my to do list tonight. It’s about finding a piece of mind and instead of worrying about my list I will check them off one item at a time.

I’ve actually written about mindfulness a few times if you want to read on.

So if you aren’t a runner yet, I implore you to give it a try and see what kind of life lessons you can learn. It isn’t easy but there is nothing more gratifying than a completed race after a hard training plan.

I wouldn’t be who I am today if I hadn’t found my love of running.

Thanks for reading,