It's All About the Journey

If you follow this blog, you know that I ended my best training cycle this winter with a bad race at the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. Following the race, I started to doubt myself and feel bad about myself. This past week, I looked at the big picture and remembered that we're all on different journeys. I realized that I'm doing just fine on my journey, and I'm proud of what I've accomplished.

I read a lot of success stories on blogs or magazines about two main types of runners. The first are those who started running in high school or earlier and either continued running or renewed their running and are reaching new levels of success. The second are those who have never run before but when they started, achieved either instant or rapid success--winning age-group awards in their first race or running their first race faster than I will probably ever be able to run that distance. Just a few days ago an article on Runner's World profiled a man who started running six months ago and finished his first race--a half marathon--in 2:10.

I am not one of those people. Not only was I never able to run as a kid, but I had no athletic ability at all. I was never picked to be on anyone's team, got kicked off the volleyball team at a time when no kid got kicked off any team because I was so bad, and always did the worst at any gym activity or event. I started running when I was 37 and remember being so proud of myself that I could run three miles straight and finish a 5K. Almost four years later, why did I feel so opposite of proud when I finished my fifth half marathon earlier this month?

The answer is, of course, that I want to get better. Most of us do. We either want to go faster, longer, put more into training, put more into race day, be more consistent, do more cross training, break our PRs, pass people on the best we can be.

All those are good things. But something in a blog post last week really struck me. I was reading elite runner Tina Muir's reflections of her fantastic London Marathon race. She said her biggest success was her attitude. "This made me think of something my friend Carla said in her new book, What You Can When You Can....'When we’re determined we stick to our vision; when we’re obsessed, our vision has narrowed so much our goal is all we see—and the rest of life passes us by.' This was my mindset in previous marathons, I was obsessed with that time goal, and life did pass me by. It was only when I let that go, that I could actually run to my potential."

Here is an elite runner--a woman whose profession is to run well to secure continued sponsorships--and she proved how letting go of her time goal obsession enabled her to not only enjoy her race but to run a fantastic time.

That was the second blog post I'd read last week that mentioned the What You Can, When You Can (#wycwyc) movement. The first was from Jessica at A Little More Each Day and was the first I'd heard of #wycwyc. The idea of making little changes instead of trying to achieve instant perfection resonated with me, so I checked out the #wycwyc blog. I was blown away by the post I saw: Doing the work without an attachment to the outcome. Showing the #wycwyc book with yoga books made me think about the purpose of yoga. It is not to do a pose perfectly but instead is about the benefits to your mind and body while going through the process of doing that pose. In other words, yoga is all about the journey. Extending that to life in general (I know, deep thoughts!), what's the purpose of  life? It's not just to reach the end--and die!--but is all about the journey and what we learn and experience as we move through life.

So there was the response to my self-doubting struggle of becoming a better runner, wondering whether I should continue to strive for goals when I feel so bad when I don't meet them. YES is the answer. I run because I love being outside and exploring the world in all seasons, because I like to challenge my body and my mind, because of how it makes me feel, and many other reasons. I don't run just to achieve a time goal. Like yoga and life in general, running is all about the journey for me.

And I'm proud of my journey. I'm not the fastest runner, but I'm right up there with most dedicated. I might not meet the goals I set for races, but I've come so far and improved so much, and I learn something from every race. I'll continue to strive for new goals to continue improving as a runner, but I need to remember and celebrate my own successes and stay positive about my own journey.

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