I’m sure I am not the first person to use running as a metaphor for life. After all, they both take you on a journey of sorts and both can be enjoyable, painful and challenging all at the same time. But, on a long run yesterday morning, I made a different connection between the two.
Before I started out on my 20 km journey Saturday morning I had a goal. It was a pace goal and a rather aggressive one, but I was determined to achieve it. Before I even got to my starting point, I reminded myself of some important facts that set the tone. I stayed up too late the night before, I drank one too many glasses of wine, I didn’t eat properly, and I didn’t have my usual running clothes on. But off I went with my new Garmin programmed to guide me to my goal and all I could think about was whether or not I would actually reach it.
Within the first kilometer I was off pace and felt instantly disappointed. In the second kilometer my waist belt and water bottle were driving me crazy because my shirt was too slippery and I had to adjust both. As a result, I again fell off pace and decided because of this I would never reach my goal, despite running a good portion of this second kilometer right on target – a fact I ignored. During the third and fourth kilometers I felt winded and heavy and became totally convinced that there was no way I would make my goal by the end. In the fifth kilometer, I told myself I would probably have to stop and go to the washroom somewhere and that this would further prevent me from my goal. On and on it went until I finally got a blister on my left heel and had to stop for repairs at the 13 km mark. I was so annoyed with myself.
I was in a lot of pain and a long way from my car. The thought of walking back was discouraging and phoning someone to come and get me was simply not an option – too much pride! So, I asked myself a new question.
“How can I salvage this run and prevent a similar performance in the future?”
The answer back was simple – be present.
Yes, I have said it many different ways before, but the reality is, I wrecked my own run and my goal by getting too far ahead of myself and by focusing on all the things that would get in the way of achieving it.
You see, for me, that is how running is most like life. The best runs are the ones where I find myself marveling at the scenery, listening to my feet connect with the earth and racing against people who are immediately in front of me.
I believe a happy life is the same. When we say yes to what is right in front of us or look for signs in the present that everything will work out, we often find that it does. And because we choose to focus on what is in the immediate we are presented with opportunities to take action and our achievement seems realistic. Had I only tried to stay on pace for the first two kilometers or improve slightly in each subsequent kilometer, I probably would have been much closer to my target pace by the end.
If we spend our time looking too far ahead and asking ourselves how will we ever get there from here, we ignore the positive mileposts and are instead presented with evidence that it is impossible to reach our goal. It is always easy to find reasons to give up on something, to count ourselves out, to not take the risk, to not trust, or to never begin. But imagine all the impossible ideas and dreams that would never have come true if we all lived with the fear of how.
On Friday evening I had the pleasure of listening to retired Canadian astronaut, Col. Chris Hadfield, who fortunately never let ‘impossible’ hold him back. Hearing about his experience commanding the International Space Station for five months was inspirational and thought provoking; it was an evening I will not soon forget.
I would like to leave you with a very short quote that I felt was a most profound message; one I hope you never forget.
If you are predicting what won’t happen in the future, that’s a fool’s game. ~ Col. Chris Hadfield
Thank-you for being with me for each blissful and challenging step of my journey.
With love and gratitude,