“Sit back… relax… exhale.” Those are some of the key principles they teach you in running clinics about how to be a better runner. When most think about running they definitely don’t think about relaxing or sitting back. But it’s true, to make the most out of your running you’ve got to do those things. That’s how you reach the furthest distance and get there faster.
I was never much of a runner after junior high. The enjoyment of running was lost with a few disappointing track meet results. I was young, and a late bloomer. Competing against teenagers that were in a few stages ahead of me in development was a losing game. And let’s be honest, track just wasn’t cool anymore at that age. Fast forward 17 years later and I was out of shape, my health was deteriorating with poor eating habits and excessive drinking. On top of that I couldn’t handle the pressure and stress of life. My job as a software consultant was breaking wearing me out. I was beginning to burn out and my drive was fading. In retrospect I don’t actually think it was so much the stress or pressures of life, but rather 30 years of trying to do it all on my own and not yielding to warnings of taking care of myself. I had treated my life as if it was the Dukes of Hazzard. My car had finally landed dead centre in a tree and was on ablaze. As the invincibility began to wear off, I had a wake-up call. I knew it was time to make a change.
Fast forward 4 years later. I’ve completed a handful of marathons, a triathlon and accomplished some of my greatest goals. It was not easy. This is how I did it.
“If you won’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” -Yogi Berra
Vision is what guides you through life’s uncertainties. It grounds you and gives you a destination to head for. We must set goals if we’re to do anything extraordinary in our lives. Things don’t just happen even for the most privileged and wealthy. How often do the sons and daughters of the most influential people end up doing very little where the people that started with little end up with incredible lives? Motivation and vision. When I first began running a 5 k was challenging. Over time I became more comfortable with 5 kms until I incrementally increase my distance when I began to enter events and competitions. First there were a few 10ks. These were straightforward to train. In fact, you didn’t need to really train, at all to finish. You just had to run 3-5 times the month before to feel comfortable. Then came the half marathon (22 kms). The half took some considerable effort. I found it extremely difficult to reach 12k comfortably, at first. My mindset was, “10k is my ceiling.” Well, once I broke this “ceiling” everything began to change. It even changed my perspective towards goals in life which was very interesting. As I incrementally added 1-2 kilometers onto my runs every few weeks I eventually reached 22k. And then came the full marathon (44 kms). Twice as far and enduring as the half, it would take some serious mental strength to make this happen. I trained at least twice a week. One 30 km and one 12 – 17 km. Before long the 17km felt like a 5 k. My point here is, have BIG vision for your fitness goals, your career, your relationships and for your dreams. #mindovermatter
As I got more and more fascinated with the idea of running, I realized there were other opportunities out there, as well. I kept hearing the word ‘triathlon’ in my head. At the time that was a daunting goal. It felt like there was a greater liklihood of me winning the lottery than running a marathon. I knew before I could get to that I had to focus on the goal ahead of me. Whether it was my first half or first full marathon. I had to focus on one event at a time. It’s much the same in life. Whether it is on education, our career, relationships or our dreams if we aren’t able to focus when they need us to focus most we likely can either experience slowing down, we pull back or we burn out, and nothing gets done. I’ve found focus to be crucially important in my achieving goals. Running out indoors has never been my thing. I find it’s out in the wild that has kept me coming back. It’s interesting to speed through a green park or oceanside, people watch and see the world. This seeing the world has helped realign my focus from being inward – focused on myself, to outward – focused on the world and others. This has helped accelerate my journey and help me realize my goals. Too much inward focus never does us any good.
“One way to keep momentum going is to have constantly greater goals.” -Michael Korda
Great achievements start with small ones. You build upon each one until the floor of the last one is the ceiling of your last achievement. Life is interesting that way. As I begin my runs I often start in an easy stride, and as my body warms up I pick it up. Towards the end of the run, granted I’ve achieved equal splits, I have some left in the tank to sprint the last 400 meters to my apartment. It’s the same with my running goals. If I set low goals I will get that, but when I set out to achieve longer runs, more endurance focused runs and events I can achieve those. The key I’ve found is not being comfortable or content. The “I’ve made it” mentality will crush the best of achievers. We celebrate, and then set and move on the next goal. It’s not striving. That’s living.
Never giving up has become my motto. As I get older and my goals become bigger and more challenging I hold onto this with even greater persistence. When my niece passed away last year after a long and hard felt 3 year battle with SMA it was felt like a bomb went off. Life all of sudden seemed so very heavy. We often still ask ourselves how could such a beautiful little person with so much life left to live, fight something so terrible, so bravely, for so long to not make it. The feelings were so raw, and they still are. I came to a realization shortly after her passing. Our family had to live out the life she was unable to. A few months later I completed by first triathlon. When I first started training with just 3 months until the event I honestly didn’t think I could do it. Realizing the opportunity I had, I slowly began training again. It started with a few runs each week, until I was training running over 25 kilometers a week.
“Starting strong is good. Finishing strong is epic.” -Robin Sharma
One of the most important changes I’ve made in my life has been my commitment to people and my faith. How does this line up with finishing? For a long time in my life I was carrying things for my own benefit. When I began to look at my life and motives more closely I couldn’t give you an answer other than something that was superficial like security or what I used to think was happiness. I gained new inspiration when my attention was turned to something deeper and more profound.
When I began running, it was to stay alive – to try squeeze a few more drops out of life. Now running is a way of life, and it helps me achieve that much more.
Today, I run an average of 30 kilometers a week. Running strengthens me, cleanses my body (of toxins), clears my head throughout the course of a busy week of work and school, it improves my sleep, energizes me, gives me a window of opportunity to meditate, makes me smarter, gives me a rush with endorphins and brings balance to my life. Running has enabled me to take on some big projects and goals that most thought were impossible to accomplish in 4 years. I owe much of the transformation in my life to running. One of the great results about running or hiking mountains is once you start and you see the results you’ll want to inspire others and help them change their lives. That’s a pretty good result and reason to start.