Two years ago I announced in an article on Zen Habits that I planned to run a 20km race in November 2009.
Well that didn't happen. I had any number of excuses as to why not, from sinus problems to fear to there being a fun event planned for the night before the race.
So, I failed, no? I didn't accomplish my objective. Time to get rid of the running gear and move on to something better suited, yes?
No, I didn't fail, and no, I didn't give up.
In January a friend said he was signing up to this year's race and I said "okay, me too." When registration opened in May I jumped in before they sold out (it's a VERY popular race). Committed, I continued to train. Not a lot and not with any regularity, but I kept at it until in October I ran 18.5km on a break from work.
The week before the race I went for a short run - only 10km. This from someone who in November 2008 thought that running for more than a minute without stopping was impossible.
Then two days before the race I woke up and felt the tingle in my sinuses that indicated the beginning of an infection. @#&!
Did I back out? Did I give up? No way! I checked online to make sure I wasn't going to do myself harm by running and when I found out that I'd be fine, I ignored the runny nose and headache and got ready for the run.
I'd done a few races before but hadn't liked them. Everyone passing me brought up feelings of inadequacy, but this time I decided to ignore all that. Take the good (the support from the sidelines) and chuck the rest (the sense of competition). I stuck on my headphones and took my time, ignoring the people who passed me and walking for a minute every five kilometres. Then in the last two kilometres, I opened up and pushed hard, arriving at the finish line a full 13 minutes faster than I had planned for. My official time: 2 hours and 7 minutes.
As fantastic as that is, this newsletter isn't about running. It's about achieving dreams. But I'm sure you knew that.
Having accomplished this I now feel a million times more sure that I will achieve whatever I put my mind to - especially my writing. And the whole experience has taught me some lessons:
1. It often takes longer than planned. Don't let a missed self-imposed deadline discourage you. If you're really passionate about what you do, you'll achieve it sooner or later.
2. Success requires commitment but not obsession. As long as you're seeing progress, don't get stressed out if you can't commit all your time to your dream. You need to have a life outside the objective or it will overwhelm you and you'll be more likely to abandon it.
3. Support comes from the most unexpected places. I was tweeting and Facebooking my training and enjoyed the support I was getting, but on race day itself, complete strangers stood in the rain cheering me on. Use that support to spur you on.
4. Keep a steady pace and sprint to the end. Don't go full out at the beginning or you'll burn out. Pick a rhythm that suits you and doesn't exhaust you, then when the dream comes into sight that's the time to open up the throttle and use those stored energy reserves to push to the end.
5. Celebrate your success. The first thing I did after crossing the finish line (after almost crying from happiness)? I called my partner on my cell phone and we cheered my success. We then got together with other runners and celebrated their success before going home and sleeping. When you achieve success, toast the achievement and enjoy the moment.
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