Celebrate each achievement

Friday, 16 January 2015

I’m reading a running book at the moment (yet another). As much as I love reading about the motivation and achievements of elite athletes (Scott Jurek, for example), I do love books written by runners who are more like me – people who aren’t born athletes, people who in a moment of madness decided that they would like to try this running business, and maybe even run a marathon, even though the odds are stacked against them. Not great odds, necessarily, just odds such as non-existent fitness levels, some extra lard around the butt and middle, a few birthdays too many … that kind of thing.

So the author of the one I am reading at the moment, The Nonrunner’s Marathon Guide for Women (Dawn Dais), says that you should ‘celebrate what you’re accomplishing as you accomplish it.’

She writes about an epiphany she had sitting at a housewarming party, just out of reach of the bowl of seven-layer bean dip she desperately craved. That morning she had run a 16-mile training run, which she maintains had gone horribly. She was exhausted and could do little more than sit in a chair for the duration of the party. This immobility attracted some attention and people started asking her how her training was going. She told them that she had run 16 miles that morning and, without fail, every person told her how impressed and amazed he or she was.

And then she realized that what she had done, what she was busy doing, was indeed amazing. She shifted her focus from what she was attempting to do (i.e. run a marathon in a few months’ time) but to what she had already accomplished. No, she had not yet run 26.2 miles but she had that morning run 16 miles. She had never run 16 miles before.

‘This created a profound shift in my overall outlook,’ she writes, ‘and my ability to stay encouraged.’

She continues:

‘It is very easy to become overwhelmed by your training calendar, but if you acknowledge all that you’ve accomplished in your previous weeks it will help you realize that you are completely capable of tackling what comes next. This is tremendously helpful when you’re lying on a park bench wondering if you’ll be able to breathe without a respirator, let alone finish your run.’

Reading this was a ‘Eureka!’ moment for me. I spend so much energy worrying about what I still need to do and convincing myself that I will never manage to do it that I forget to give myself a pat on the back for the things that I have already done.

I know I’m starting back at the beginning again, shuffling through 5 km stretches when I managed to work my way through three half-marathons towards the end of last year, and it is demoralizing and demotivating, and it feels as if I’ll never be able to run 10 km without calling 911 … but dammit! I got out there six times in the last nine days. The first 5 km run wasn’t great. The 5.5 km run the following evening was awful. But the 5 km I ran on Tuesday was better, the 6 km on Wednesday was pretty good, and Thursday’s 7 km hill training session saw me grinning from ear to ear at the end of it.

So I celebrated it. I called myself a machine (no, I’m not a machine, but I can call myself one if I want to). I went out to dinner with my husband. We shared an excellent bottle of chianti. No, I didn’t go out to dinner and drink wine to celebrate a 7 km run – we were going out anyway – but instead of thinking about all the training I still had to do, and how I was never going to manage it, I allowed myself simply to feel good about a run that had made me feel good.

And this morning I hauled myself out of bed and trotted out 4 km. It’s only 4 km, I know. It’s not really any kind of distance, and I have a long way to go. But all the little runs this week add up to 22 km. That’s 22 km I might not have run had I told myself that I’ll run ‘tomorrow’ or that I’ll run ‘when I’m feeling better’. So today I am celebrating the 22 km that I have already run this week. For now I won’t look towards the weekend’s runs (and worry about how I’m going to manage), and I won’t look towards how many kilometres I will notch up next week (more than this week). Instead, I’m going to make another cup of tea, smile a little bit to myself, and say ‘Good job!’



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