My cousin invited me to run a 4 mile race through central park on Saturday. It was my first race since developing tendinitis in my Achilles earlier this year. It wasn’t a long run as races go, but with the heat and having recently gotten back into running, the race was tougher than expected and offered some surprising insight.
I don’t like to run outside with music, because as cheezy as it sounds, I like to hear what’s around me, especially in a race like this with 5000 other people running around. I’m a people person, a people watcher and there was no way I was tuning it out. When I run with other people I also like to talk, but my cousin is the exact opposite. So while she was jamming to her ipod, I had some time to think, and it came in handy as I grinded through some tough spots in the race and came to some insight that might be helpful for you.
Within the first mile barely 5 or 6 minutes into the race was a hill steep enough to get my attention, and steep enough for thoughts of wanting to quit pop in my mind. Naturally surprised even thinking it, I tried to put it out of my mind, but they persisted. Then I noticed my eyes on the ground looking at the ground just 10 feet in front of me. I just needed to make my goal smaller. Focusing to wide – on the remaining 3.5 miles was too much – I needed to get through the next 10 feet. It wasn’t something I stayed consciously aware of, but it seems to me that when things get the toughest, working your way through it is easier when you make your goals smaller than you would normally.
The idea of setting small goals is nothing new…reminds me of baby steps from the movie What About Bob?…but the idea of setting small goals when things gets hard was an important realization for me. Reaffirming the need to adjust my goals to the situation so I can still reach the end goal.
As I finished the hill and settled into the run, the race got easier. I was on a good pace and feeling comfortable, so it was natural for my perspective to widen again and enjoy what was around me. For me, I think too often I want the harder times to be this easy, not realizing that working hard, pushing through times when I’m struggling, is how I find stronger footing. Only then is can I do more, more easily. Otherwise, I’m actually just doing less wishing it were more. There were several other times throughout the race that challenged me mentally and armed with this insight fresh in my mind I plowed through and felt stronger each time.
By the end I was pretty tired. The heat surprised me, and I was most happy my ankle felt good all the way around. And thanks to spotting an on course photographer, got this fun pic of me and my cuz.