Today I ran my first 10k. Not really breaking news; its probably not going to change the world much (it did merit an FB update and a message to my mom…) and besides the sore legs tomorrow, life will go on. But here’s the thing, it was the best race I have ever run and while soaking it up in the bath trying not to drown in the bubbles while singing badly (and loudly enough to annoy the neighbours), I pondered the reason. I enjoy running and with a good amount of irony will admit to having said “I will never run a 10k, give me a 5k anyday but seriously, if you can’t run in in 30-odd minutes, what’s the point?”. I didn’t run today’s 10 in 30-odd minutes, more like double and then some… but here’s what I learnt today…
- The company you keep, keeps you going. I struggled through a 10k during the week, and when I say struggled, I mean there was sweat, blood (okay, maybe a slight exaggeration) and plenty of real, very unhappy tears. It was hard. I was running alone. Today, surrounded by a few other girls – like 10 000+ – I didn’t stop once. Not even to take a sip of water. I kept moving forward. That’s never happened to me before. Why the change? I was surrounded by like-minded people. We were going somewhere; we had purpose. Simply being in an atmosphere that pushed me on, kept me going. The people around you (at work, church, life) will determine the pace at which you move forward; who are you “running” with?
- Cheerleaders are invaluable. All along the route, the marshalls were incredible; not only were they looking out for our safety by keeping us within the demarcated lanes, but they cheered us on, encouraged us to keep going and applauded our entry into the stadium for the finish. I didn’t know these people’s names, but for that moment, because someone had noticed me and had used an ounce of effort to speak life in my direction, I was motivated to take another step and not to give in to the thoughts of slowing to a walk. Its important to have cheerleaders on the sidelines of our daily lives; people who notice us in our weakest moments and care enough to smile, clap and even holler an encouragement. (Its also really amazing at the change in them when you thank them, acknowledging them…)
- Milestones are really helpful. I used to run from 1km to the next and couldn’t understand why I struggled to gain momentum. Today, although I found great satisfaction in seeing those signboards pass, I chose to keep the bigger goal in mind, while simply focusing on the here and now – the step I had to take now, not the 2000 steps required to get to the next kilometre. Milestones are there to guide our efforts and yes, we can celebrate each of them (I did a mini mental happy dance as I passed each one), but if we set our minds to simply achieving the immediate milestone, we lose the mental longevity required to reach the finish line. Its a matter of perspective.
- Ditch the comparisons. Unless you are that ONE person who is going to win the race, there will always be someone better than you and someone not quite as good. Comparing yourself to those around you will only affect your own mental well-being and throw you off your game. Run at your pace. Run to push yourself to be your best. Set yourself a goal and run to that. Remain in the moment and let go of the un-fulfilling pressure of comparisons. Life’s too short… and when you are consumed with purpose, you don’t have the energy or desire to compare yourself to those around you.
- There will always be obstacles. Whether its a Walker in a Running race or a bench that seems to come out of nowhere, life is going to throw you an obstacle now and again. You can’t control that. You can, however, control how you respond… and it takes much less energy to simply sidestep or look for a quick gap.
- Its all in the mind. I always struggle for the first km, and then the urge to walk creeps into my head. After each km, this little idea gets louder and more frequent. Today, having reached 5km without walking, I gave myself a goal: get to 7km, and then maybe I could consider walking. I got to 7km. The thought was still there, but suddenly there was another voice, one that spoke of endurance and finishing strong, of not giving in and taking the easy option. And so, I chose which of the two thoughts could stay, which option I would choose. Yeah, my legs were starting to complain, but I got to make a conscious decision to keep going. We can do that in life too: even when it seems innocent enough to take a break and slack off, its a decision to keep moving forward.
- Have an epic soundtrack. Last night I had an Old School moment and downloaded a 90s Hits album from iTunes. Can I tell you something? As I was struggling with the decision to walk or not, Informer started to play. How can you wimp out when such a great song is the soundtrack to your current moment?? And every awesome moment deserves to be turned into your own music video memory, or is that just me..??
- Hydration is important. Praise the Lord for those water points! I don’t really know how they work out where to place them, but let me tell you, they were right there when I needed them the most. We need refreshing and refilling – cool, fresh, life-giving water… I don’t think I do that enough in real life. Both literally drinking water and drinking from the Life-giving water of God’s Rest. Psalm 23 type water. The race is long – and yes, its important to keep focussed – but wow, those little bursts of refreshment have an incredible impact.
- You can choose where you throw your rubbish. Just because everybody else throws their little water packets on the ground, doesn’t mean you need to too. There are bins… and yes, maybe it requires holding a packet for an extra few steps, but it is possible. I think we do that with a whole lot of our other rubbish sometimes: the comments we drop, the attitudes we adopt, the tantrums we throw – just because people around you throw their rubbish about, doesn’t mean its always okay. Someone else has to clean up that mess, and no, they don’t always get paid to do it.
- Enjoy the moment. I loved this race because I enjoyed every moment, and what’s more: I remained in the moment. Totally a new experience for me, and maybe that’s why I’ve come away having learnt so much. When we are fully present, we are fully aware and somewhere in that may be the key to personal growth… it would be nice if I managed to translate that into my everyday life..
(Please excuse the very bad iPhone non-filtered, unedited, rosy faced post-race selfie, but I want to share the evidence of our accomplishment!)
And so there you have it: 10 lessons for 10kms. Now for tea, a nap and a prayer or two that tomorrow I will be able to walk…