3 Things I Learned by Setting 1 (nearly) Impossible Goal

Running has never been something I was really ever interested in.  I played basketball and tennis in high school, so I never learned how to "distance" run - only short spurts throughout games/matches.  Of course, my coaches would have us run a couple of miles here and there, but it was never for long, and it was never fun (for me).

As I got older, I would go through phases (now in hindsight seemingly defined by my work situations) of "I need to get healthy again".  I would go through the annoying cycle of joining the gym, get a trainer, lose weight, then go back to "reality", get stressed at work, gain weight, and repeat.  

It's taken a while, but I think I've finally come to a point in my life where I actually realize (intrinsically - not just cognitively) that I only have one life and only one body to get me through it.  Therefore, I better take care of it.

When I decided to set this major goal for myself, I happened to be in a "high stress" work situation.  I found a way out but had zero backup plans.  Therefore, I gave myself permission to create some "open space" to allow other opportunities to come in and decided that I was not going to react out of fear, even though I currently have no income.  

I decided that I was going to set one goal that seemed impossible.  And, I was going to achieve it in the first quarter of this year.  Frankly, I just needed something to help me get my ass in gear, out of the negativity, and create momentum that I could build upon to generate more positive energy to bring me back full swing into the world...so that's what I did.  

Having never run more than 6.2 miles (i.e., a 10k) in my entire life (not to mention suffering from joint pain, knee pain, and turf toe) I decided that I was going to run a half marathon (13.1 miles).  It really seemed impossible...and miserable.  But it gave me a goal to focus on, where I knew if I did it...it would prove (to me) that I could do anything.

It was January.  I registered for a race on March 19th.  Now what?  Next, I started talking to some friends who were runners/triathletes about how in the world I could actually do this.  I had no idea.  One of them recommended Jeff Galloway's book Marathon - You can do it!  Another said she would actually run the race with me and even trained with me on my long runs, which was enormously helpful.

I have learned many things from this journey of accomplishment simply because I set one goal for myself.  I'd like to share a few of them here with you.

Excuses don't exist unless we allow them too.  A perfect example of this for me was the weather.  If it was cold, rainy, or heaven forbid both cold & rainy outside, there was absolutely no way in hell I was going outside to run...ever.  This was an excuse.  I could whine about it and make all kinds of justifications, but when it came down to it - this was just an excuse to not try and/or quit.  

During this training, I began to have conversations with myself like, "Why couldn't I run in the cold and the rain?  People do it all the time.  What was I afraid of?  Was I going to melt away and die?".  No.  The fact was, I just needed to bundle up, wear clothes to help me stay as dry as possible, and just do it.

You can do it.  You. Just. Have. To. Do. It.

It's actually more about training your brain than your body.  As counterintuitive as this may sound, it really is more important to learn how to quiet the negativity in your brain and teach yourself how to push through, than it is to focus on the physical training alone (they are connected - if you learn to control your mind, the body will automatically follow...it may work the other way around for shorter distances, but for the long hauls, it's your mind that absolutely rules).  

For example, in my previous experience, I encountered a mental block around mile 3. For some reason, that was my point where I wanted to stop - and up until this new training program - I pretty much did stop...every time.  I thought it was enough.  I would feel winded and/or have body aches and would tell myself "I don't want to get injured, I better stop".  While the logic of not pushing yourself to injury is sound, this in my reality was nowhere near the case, it was my reason to quit.  Therefore, I had never pushed myself through the pain, so I had no idea what was on the other side.  Would I hurt myself? Or, would I get stronger?  

What I figured out was that it was actually my brain (not my body telling me to stop).  I had to work on my conversations that I was having with myself during my runs in order to teach my brain, not to quit.  The "stress" my body was feeling as being "winded" and "achey" was simply sending my brain into "fight or flight" mode (because it was a new and uncommon experience).  Therefore, I had to learn how to tell my mind that I was, in fact, actually O.K.

In my training, as I started out with my first "long" run of 3 miles, I started to become aware of every single ache and pain in my body.  It was as if every reason on earth was coming into my brain telling me why I should stop running, this very instant.  I knew this part was coming (from my past history) and from my triathlete friends who had warned me.  They prepared me that I needed to have a response ready for those not-so-little voices in my head. Therefore, my best friends while running became these little phrases…

Do it anyway.  Just keep going.  You will not stop.

Consistency is Key (with "wins" along the way)
Every Saturday was my "long run" day.  No matter what, I had to pile on one more additional mile than I had done the previous Saturday.  When I hit 7 miles that was a PR for me.  PR stands for "personal record" and athletes are continuously trying (and tracking) their PRs...it's that constant pushing of yourself...it's progress.  Even though I wasn't aware that it would play out this way, I was lucky in that I automatically had a PR plan built into my training program.  This helped tremendously in feeling accomplished along the way, it was small goals achieved that led to a big goal.  There it was, every Saturday...Boom...I just ran further than I had ever run before.  

If you do this consistently over time, what you will begin to notice is that you start replacing any doubts you have had with all the confidence in the world, because…

You begin to know you can - even if you've never done it before.