Inspiration for marathoners and those just beginning
-Ann Mehl, annmehl.com
Over the span of 15 years, I have run more than 40 marathons – NYC, Boston, Chicago, Marine Corps (my favorite), the Washington, D.C., Berlin, Stockholm, Quebec City, St. Louis, God’s Country Marathon in Pennsylvania, the New Jersey Shore and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in San Diego, to name but a few.
Running grants me confidence and a positive outlook on everything. Even on my worst days, I gain inner strength and personal satisfaction simply from trying. Any single marathon is a triumph. Each time I line up for a new race, I feel nervous. But it is the feeling of accomplishment that I receive after having completed the event that keeps me coming back for more. Whatever your own personal marathon, I believe that the same mind-set I use in prepping for long-distance-running events may speak to you as well. These are not rules, but more a set of values to keep in mind when you’re setting out to accomplish any worthwhile goal.
1. Stretch. Not much happens of any significance when we’re in our comfort zone. Had I not dared to stretch myself beyond the one-mile distance, I may have never known my full potential. I ran my first marathon in Boston in 1993 to prove to myself that I am strong and capable. The marathon taught me that I could achieve anything when I put my heart and mind into something. Stretch yourself. Surprise yourself. Do one thing each day that scares you.
2. Make the time. Whether you want to run a marathon or write a book, it all begins with carving out the necessary time. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. So why do some people seem to do accomplish so much more? They do it by giving themselves the time. Create a short, achievable list of priorities, and then make the time.
3. Pay attention to the inner voice. It is your constant traveling companion, and it can be your greatest friend or worst enemy. Snag any limiting voice when it surfaces, and identify that it is your fear talking. Learn to identify negative self-talk patterns and replace them with more constructive inner dialogue. Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, either way you are usually right, to paraphrase Henry Ford.
4. Just show up. According to Woody Allen, 80 percent of success is just showing up. That means you can’t run a race if you don’t make it to the start line. Don’t be too easily swayed by your moods. Even when you don’t initially feel like doing something, just taking the very first step will usually help you get in (and stay in) the mood.
5. Tune out the noise. Modern living is full of noise – literally and figuratively. Too much of it, and it can distract you from what you need to accomplish. Learn to quiet down your internal and external environment to the point where you can truly hear yourself. It will help you to stay focused and conserve precious energy.
6. Take in the view. When I am running, I often have to remind myself to take in the view. A new city, changing seasons – there’s a lot to enjoy. Doing this helps me to stay in the moment and distracts me from whatever temporary discomfort I may feel. It also provides an energy booster when I look up and smile or talk to someone. Same as in life, as in running. As the saying goes, life is a journey, not a destination.
7. Sometimes you’ll stumble. False starts are central to the process of running. So you miss a day’s training or you go nuts on dessert. Big deal! Start over again tomorrow. Perfectionism only causes stress and anxiety and will eventually lead to burnout.
8. Buddy up. No man is an island, as John Donne once noted. Develop and nurture a healthy network of friends and partners who will support you in your endeavors. You will need them when the going gets tough. I believe that we carry one another in spirit. When someone falls down, go back and help them up. You may be able to do it all on your own, but you don’t have to. Model yourself after others if it will help you to move forward.
9. Laugh. Don’t take life, running, or yourself too seriously. And there’s a lot to laugh at (especially in the marathon!). One good belly laugh a day is essential for optimal mental and physical health.
10. Run your own race. Ultimately, only you decide how you will run the race. Nobody else can run it for you. Learn to listen to and trust your own intuition. You may take the counsel of those you trust, but don’t be afraid to disregard it if you feel you know better. Dare to listen to the beat of your own drummer. Nobody knows you better than you do.