Life lessons from running

28 May 2017

Last weekend I ran the Gothenburg half-marathon for the third time, and was chuffed to achieve my goal of breaking the two hour mark for the first time. In case you are not impressed, I am over 60! But if you have no interest in running, don't stop reading now because this blog is not about athletics. Rather it is about running as a metaphor for life. I love drawing out lessons from my runs that seem to have wider application to our life journeys.

I have been training for this run three times a week since Christmas. When you set a tough goal, success is all about careful preparation. Most of that preparation is unglamorous, unseen. It is often hard work, tough even. It often takes an effort to get off one's chair and do it. It requires discipline and commitment.

Some of the preparation for a run is routine, just moving the body and building up stamina. Some of it is targeted at specific aspects of the run. Interval training, where you run for a period at high tempo and then rest for a period, and repeat this several times, is designed to strengthen the heart muscle. Training on inclines builds up leg muscles and endurance for the climbs that often wipe out one's energy.

And so it is in life. If you have a goal you want to reach, you have to train, you have to prepare. In our short-attention-span world, we want to reach goals quickly. We must realise that the larger the goal, the longer it is likely to take to reach it. And the more discipline, commitment and patience will be required. How easy it is to give up when things are tough. The mind invents all kinds of (semi-plausible) excuses why it is ok to have a break or even abandon the goal.

Last Saturday I ran a (for me) perfect race. I had worked out my strategy of where I wanted to be at each 5km mark. I followed my plan of using average pace as the indicator of how well I was doing. Knowing that an average of 5:41 mins per km through the whole race would get me under the two hour goal, I watched my average come down from 5:57 after the first 6kms which included the two toughest ascents, to 5:45 with 6kms to go. I knew that if I could keep going I could make my target. I crossed the line 28 seconds under the two hours. It sounds very little but in the context of the strategy it was perfect. The important thing is achieving your goal, not how much you achieve it by. The satisfaction is in the achievement itself.

One thing about achieving goals is that they seem to become addictive. Once you reach one you want to set the next one. I'm looking forward to the Gothenburg marathon in 2021 when the city celebrates its 400th anniversary!