This week I’ve felt a bit restless. I think it’s the come-down from the race last Sunday. Now that the 10k is over, I’m feeling the need for a new challenge, a new goal or objective – one that I can plonk into the murky unknown of next year’s calendar and reach, only with the passage of time and some long-term(ish) dedication.
I’ve never really been one for sticking to long-term goals. I’m great at making them – I can list and plan and “project” like nobody’s business. I even have a special jumper that my sister bought me to wear while I make lists (yes, really – it’s chunky and cosy and also bright pink). But the actual day to day doing of the things that you need to do to get towards whatever shiny, shimmering end point you’ve marked months and years ahead of yourself has historically been all too capable of eluding me. I get bored at seeing little or no progress. I start to treat my goal as a chore which I eventually come to resent. Or, more usually, a newer, shinier idea takes hold in my mind and I dart towards it like a goldfish with a two-second memory span, shedding spider diagrams and post-it notes in my haste.
The running, however, and the culmination of the running in last weekend’s race, changed all that. In fact, what amazes me most about the entire experience is the fact that I managed to persevere with something for a period of six whole months without throwing in the towel and moving on to something else.
But perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. I did play this one with a savvy hand, after all. Because I knew the training was going to be hard, and because I recognised in myself that tendency to give up or get bored when things aren’t going my way (yes, I know, it’s a massive character flaw), I did two very important, yet very, very simple things right at the start of my training. 1) I spent money on my goal in signing up for the race and 2) I told every I knew that I was doing it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there’s nothing quite like the prospect of wasting money and the threat of sheepishly having to reveal one’s status as Grade-A quitter to keep a girl motivated.
Most of all though, I think the main reason the running was a success is the perspective I told myself I needed to have over it. Back in April, I told myself that I was signing up to progress and the process, rather than just the end result. So while my concrete, tangible objective was always to run the 10k, in a wider sense it was to become a better runner, and to watch myself become a better runner. That element of wanting to see a progression and some kind of transformation meant that I engaged myself in the process of training far more than I might have were I only thinking about the race.
I guess it’s like painting a wall. Yes, you ultimately want to turn a room from one colour to the next, but if you focus doggedly only on the finished result, you’ll miss out on all the other nice stuff. The soothing rhythm of the brush strokes, the places your mind can wander to while your body is engaged in something repetitive and relaxing and the pleasure that comes from watching a gradual transformation (however big or small) that’s 100% your own doing.
So. What did I learn, apart from the fact that if you work really hard and you stop telling yourself you can’t do something then you might actually be able to do it? Well, I think I learned that focusing on appreciating a journey makes me far more likely to arrive at my destination.
I guess now the only question remaining is, where do I want to go next?
Image above from here.