I completed my first marathon last weekend. While I wish I could say that the actual marathon was awesome, that I ran my best race at my best time, I cannot. It was rough. It was actually awful. I struggled more on this run than I had on any other, and with something that I hadn’t during the previous 4 months of training. Total transparency & vulnerability – I spent the whole race making sure I didn’t shit my pants. (#goals) Yep. I spent the whole race running towards the next port-o-potty. And because of all these breaks, I struggled to fall into my pace and my self coaching skills went into overtime. Nevertheless, I finished.
So I guess you could say that the lesson to be learned from marathon day is that sometimes shit happens (and sometimes quite literally), we do our best to get through it, and when we do are able to look back and realize that we can do hard things. Knowing that you can persevere though difficult circumstances is a valuable lesson, for sure. Being able to look back on different challenges in your life and think “I got through that” is definitely pause for reflection, because sometimes we don’t know our own strength until we acknowledge our ability to make it through those tough times.
But that’s not where the lesson stops for me. I trained for this marathon for months, and along the way have picked up some valuable lessons that can translate into any area of life whether you’re starting a business, training for an event, building a house, becoming a parent or taking strides toward anything that is exciting yet unfamiliar.
Here are a few of them…….
1) Fear is information. When we decide to step out of our comfort zones, our minds will give us many reasons to stop. This happens to everyone and it is simply our minds wanting to protect us and keep us safe. The primal part of our brain goes into fight or flight over fear of the unknown. When you can acknowledge this as part of the process, not deny it or fight against it, you’ll be sending your mind a message that says “thanks for the information, I’ve got this.” The information can then be used to create an action plan, broken down into turtle steps. By taking steps to plan for the task at hand, you’re giving your mind further evidence that you do, in fact, got this.
In this way, confidence is built over time while conquering fear in small doses. Before training for this marathon, the furthest I had ever run was 13.1 miles and when I started running again 15 months ago, I could barely run 2 miles. Training pushed me out of my comfort zone every week; not only did I start running longer distances than I ever had, I was also getting up at zero dark thirty in all kinds of weather. I would get nervous as the distances increased and then plan accordingly, visualizing the course, preparing fuel and planning out when I’d need it, and figured out what I’d listen to when I’d reach the point of slowing down and running without my group. Soon what had once seemed like a scary, daunting task was just something I did, and I gradually became mentally and physically stronger.
The bigger goal can seem unattainable, even though we really want it and think that it is possible for us. It takes time to hone our craft and work through mental and physical blocks. Breaking things down into turtle steps ensures that you are not only working towards what you want, but also conquering little fears along the way.
2) Find evidence from your past that proves you can do hard things. I have walked 60 miles over three days before, so I knew I could endure long distances. I knew how to deal with things like blisters, sore muscles and hunger during an event, so I was certain that I could figure it out during a marathon. What skills have you learned from previous jobs, volunteer work or taking care of a loved one that will help you in your pursuit of this dream? Chances are, you don’t have to go back to school or take a class; you’ve already learned what you need from the school of life.
3) Find an accountability partner and people who’ll listen to you talk about your dream. I know that I would not have started running again or reached the finish line without my running partners. They encouraged me to push myself when I needed it and respected my decision at times when I needed to back off a little. We helped each other work through the mind chatter and physical set backs. I also have a very supportive family who would listen to me talk about running, the obstacles I was working through and who came to cheer me on the day of the race. They woke up earlier than they had to on a Saturday, and positioned themselves throughout the course at the mile markers they knew I was going to need encouragement. Their support means the world to me.
When you decide to follow your dream, it will probably become the thing you think about, talk about and put your energy towards the most. Spend time with the people who’ll ask about and who’ll listen to you chatter on about your goals and how you’re pursuing them. They may occasionally express their own fears and concerns, but they’ll also give you a pat on the back or big hug when things get rough. These are the people who will be happy for you, no matter what the outcome.
4) Don’t let some arbitrary goal that you set for yourself a long time ago keep you from pursuing your dream. I said for a long time that I wanted to run a marathon by the time I was 40. I’m 44. Never think that it’s too late. If you woke up today, you can start creating those turtle steps.
5) Learn to get cozy with discipline. Discipline is a word that I have fought against for many years. Saying it or hearing it would give me a pit in my stomach and made me want to rebel. I would instantly feel trapped. But what I’ve learned about discipline is that it gives us the structure and freedom to pursue our dreams. It creates time to not only put in the work, but also allows space for problem solving and creativity to flow. Also, honoring the commitments you make to yourself builds your integrity, and reinforces the belief that you are worthy of the life you dream of.
6) Rest is essential. Never underestimate the importance of rest while you’re working towards your goal. We can’t go all out all the time. Rest boosts our immunity, gives us time to refocus, opens us up to creativity and provides an opportunity for answers to surface. You’re not losing during this time; you’re allowing the work you’ve put in so far to germinate. Allow it to serve as a time to remind yourself why you wanted this goal to begin with and fill yourself with energy as you make the final big push to the finish line.
7) Sometimes you just need to go for it. You can spend your life overthinking or you can just do the darn thing. When I registered for the marathon, I did it without really thinking about what my life was going to be like in the coming months. Had I thought too much about what the training was going to be like, I would’ve put it off longer. I have a hunch that you may have a dream that you’ve been thinking about for a while. Maybe you’re stuck at the beginning, where you get all excited and then your brain starts freaking out. If that’s the case, re-read #1 – go for it and begin to forge your path with turtle steps.
8) Troubleshoot. If all does not go as smoothly as you planned, it does not mean you’re a failure. You get to choose what it means. Course correct. What can you tweak? Is there anything you can add or eliminate? How can you prepare differently for the next launch, event, or day out with your child? While the marathon did not go as I had expected, you can bet that I’m going to run another and am already troubleshooting.
Meditation and Imodium are on the list.