Monday, October 6, 2014

Second time around

In a couple of weeks I will run my second race ever. It’s hard to believe it’s been half a year since my very first one and amazingly I’m still running. This training experience has been a lot different than my first. It’s been much more solitary, which is one reason why I’m just now sharing it. I don’t say solitary to be self-pitying. In a way, it’s actually been freeing not to have to keep pace with someone. I’ve been able to focus 100% on running my own race, the metaphor of my life these days. In my usual fashion, I’ve spent time in reflection and then compiled this list of a few lessons learned this second time around.

There’s power in doing things in secret
My first experience with running was so completely new to me that I often sought feedback from others. I reported every miniscule insight to my veteran running friends. I wrote about fitness or running nearly every other post. That was fine for then because I was new. But this time around has afforded me some much needed perspective. There is absolutely no reason to broadcast every little thing I do. I’m just not that important and no one is that interested. Period. Besides, there’s something to be said about working toward a goal in secret. When you consistently hit the trail and put in the work without thinking about the cute selfie you want to take at the end of the workout, you build your character. It’s not about anyone else. The goal is about you. A basic life principal is this: whatever is done in secret will eventually be revealed. Don’t waste time boasting when you’re in the process. It undermines your effort.

You must learn to encourage yourself
My first time out I had more consistent support. I had a personal trainer who did many of my runs with me. This time, I might run with a friend every once and a while, but it’s mainly been me. Interestingly enough, no matter how good I’m feeling when I start my run, I almost immediately start talking myself out of going as far as I intended. If I planned to do four laps around the lake, I want to let myself off easy and just do two. The thoughts of quitting occur right away and come in such a rapid fire manner that I lose count how many times I hear, “Just stop. You don’t have to go all the way. You’ve gone far enough.” It’s obviously much easier to push through them when you have a running buddy. But sometimes in life, you don’t always have someone else there to push you through. You must learn to encourage yourself just the way a coach or trainer might encourage you. You have to tell yourself, “Don’t quit. Come on, you got this. Keep breathing. You’re doing great. Almost there. Finish strong.” When those persevering thoughts finally drown out the quitting thoughts, then I get a second wind and run even faster than before.

Maintain motivation between the monumental moments
Let’s face it. Every runner feels like a rock star on race day. It’s exhilarating. You get your bib. You chit chat with other runners. You feel the anticipation as people wait at the starting line. You feel energized when strangers call you by name (they’re just reading your bib, mind you, but still) and cheer you on. You usually get your fill of food and beer or wine at the end. And of course, you get a medal of completion and bragging rights for the rest of the day. All of that combined almost makes you forget the $50, $60, $70 or more that you paid for the experience. Nevertheless, race day produces a high and it keeps folks coming back. That’s all fine and well, but what happens between races? Can you lace up and consistently hit the trail when no one is cheering you on, when the weather conditions aren’t perfect, when your time is slower than your record because your body just isn’t feeling it? Can you be diligent, faithful, and committed when it’s boring? The test of character isn’t in how you meet the monumental challenges of a moment but how you conduct yourself between moments. Anyone can perform on command. It’s the pattern of conduct, the habits of person’s lifestyle that reveals who you really are.

Those are just some of my thoughts from training this time around. I imagine each training period will hold new revelations and each race will be different from the previous. I kind of like that. Each training period has its own story and its own theme. The theme for this time around is that if I ever have to go at something alone, I can do it. It’s not necessarily my preference and it’s not always necessary for each season of life. But if ever it’s called for me to run my race solo, I can do it because I have what it takes to endure.

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