The year I turned 50, I completed a 50K having never run a marathon. I like to call this experience “my 31 miles of introspection.” It was hard. Daunting. Sweltering hot. I made the decision to conquer this feat to achieve a goal during a season that lacked structure and seemingly no clear direction, while also sweating out impurities (aka stress) and proving something to myself (and maybe to a few select others). I wouldn’t necessarily recommend doing what I did in the manner in which I did it; but for me, a 50K finish taught me six daily principles:
- Explore. Learn. Grow. I’m often amazed at the things my sons do and when I ask, “How did you learn that?” They inevitably say, “YouTube” or “a podcast.” In our tech world, knowledge is at our fingertips. I didn’t have any idea how to tackle a 50K, but a more experienced runner online did. I printed his plan and followed it. In our Information Age, there are no excuses for excuses.
- Be a goal getter. Prioritize what you need to accomplish every day. And do it. If you don’t achieve your daily goals, reset yourself and move on. I couldn’t always make my training happen. In fact, I missed two important long runs. But because I had a plan with an end in mind, I was able to adjust and continue forward.
- Add fun and accountability. Reward yourself for small successes and find your tribe. Meaningful incentives and comradery of community can rally you through the lows, making for a happier, healthier, and more exhilarating experience.
- Reduce the big BUTS. “I could have done better, BUT it was too hot…BUT my clothes were chafing…BUT I was thirsty…” BUT. BUT. BUT. We don’t have to run to feel the weight of big BUTS. Life is full of them. Rid yourself of the ones you can. Figure out how to manage the ones you can’t. Speaking of…
- Focus on the cans. Not the cannots. Why use limited energy and time on things beyond your control? Instead, ask, “What can I do in this situation?” And then do it. I had no control over the heat race day. I could however, hydrate, fuel as needed, and adjust my pace.
- Take one day/task/step at a time. I’ve heard successful entrepreneurs say that in the beginning they didn’t know what they were doing, so they focused on what was in front of them and did that. In other words, they took what was overwhelming and broke it down into manageable steps. They stayed in the now. Quite literally, that’s how I finished a 50K. Although I knew where the finish was, I couldn’t focus on it because it was too far away. I set my sights on overcoming one mile at a time.
People have told me, “I hate running. I could never run a 50K.” I don’t always enjoy running either. Right now, in fact, I spend my time at the gym and riding my bike. Signing up for a 50K had nothing to do with running. Rather, it had everything to do with entering into something bigger than myself and learning how to persevere and ultimately overcome––principles I apply every single day.
What’s your 50K?