That’s me. I was fifty seven years old and preparing to run in my first 5K. It is the craziest and most self satisfying thing I’ve ever done. Joan and I were walking in the Owensboro Kentucky Barbecue Festival 5K in May of 2010 with some of our kids and their girl friends. Fun times. Somewhere towards the end of the course I saw people running and laughing and having a great time and I thought “I wonder what that would feel like.” So just like that, on a beautiful Saturday morning, I decided I was going to become a runner.
It almost didn’t happen
Hind sight being what it is, I’ve come to realize that I do that a lot – Make quick decisions.
The next Saturday I purchased a pair of good running shoes. One of my sons, an avid runner, went with me and helped me pick out the right pair. I went home, laced them up, walked out on front porch, did some stretching, and started to run down the street. I made it about two hundred yards and everything started to hurt. I was out of breath. Maybe it was my imagination but I swear I saw angels circling over head lighting the path for me to come home.
What the hell was I thinking? I was bald, paunchy and old. I’d just dropped major coin on a pair of shoes. Maybe I should sneak in the back door and chalk this up to a latent mid life crisis and hope its a month or so before Joan figures out what I paid for the shoes! Here was another adventure circling the drain. Another failure. What the hell was I thinking?
I spent the next few weeks making excuses to myself and the people who kept asking me How’s the running coming along?
The worst part was the things it was doing to my self confidence.
Here we go again! Another hair brained idea that fell flat on it’s face!
Don’t you think it’s time you stopped chasing unicorns?
Your time has passed! Sit on the curb and cheer someone else!
The worst part? I’d done everything I was supposed to do! I wrote down my goal. They were specific, measurable, reachable, trackable. All those things.
****Hear crickets chirping****
I was really in a bind. I’d spent close to two hundred dollars on shoes. That’s an awfully expensive folly.
A trainer at my gym saved me. She told me about a program called Couch to 5K. It was an IPhone app designed to get you running five kilometers in 9 weeks. A voice told when the music started to play you should run. When the music stopped playing you should walk.
Even I could do this! Was that a glimmer of hope I saw peaking through the clouds?
Each week increased your run time and by the end of nine weeks you would be running five kilometers. It took me twelve weeks to complete the program because I was in worse shape than I’d imagined.
The practice was simple: The program allowed me to create a series of small goals to attain each week. When I ran more and walked less my confidence increased as well as my stamina. I was more focused and alert. I slept better. I was losing weight. Each week completed was a victory and each week made me want to do even more. I WAS doing this!
Looking back, I’d stopped focusing on the end result and started focusing on the activity I needed to get there.
Reflect on that for a minute before you hurry on. It was a series of small achievements that led to me ultimately reaching my final goal.
It would have been easy to give up and no one would have blamed me. They’d have said “Hey, at your age, at least your tried, ya know.”
You know what excuses are like right? Everybody has one. I’d carried around a whole bag of excuses for not reaching my goals. I almost short circuited because I was focused on running a whole five kilometers when I couldn’t walk to the end of the block.
My mind kept saying: If you cant do it all don’t do any of it!
That’s why ninety two percent of us who set goals don’t reach them. We have no idea or vision what success looks like. We get frustrated and give up. It’s like looking at the world through a shower curtain. Something’s there, you just cant see what it is and you don’t know how to get there!
I couldn’t see myself running the whole distance but when I made it around the block and was still alive something inside of me shouted encouragement. My confidence grew with each achievement.
That’s when I started to see success. It came in a million micro moments. I’d created milestones and landmarks that acknowledged my progress.
One Saturday morning in September of that year Joan and I got in the car and drove two hours for me to compete in my first 5K. I was nervous. You know, the good kind of nervous you get when you are excited about doing something.
I started and I finished and oh yeah, you remember the trainer who gave me the podcast program? A week before I competed she gave me another piece of advice:
Run the race you trained to run.
It would have been easy to get caught up in all the excitement of competing with hundreds of other people and forget my purpose. Her words stuck in my mind all thorough that first race.
I finished, not in record time, but I ran all the way and I was able to finish the race.
Next week I am going to share another tip that can help us reach our goals one hundred percent of the time. It’s going to be a bout the “C” word.
Yeah I know. Commitment can be a bear.
A Heroes Journey is published each Wednesday at 7:00 AM CST.