Being a goal oriented person; it seems natural to look at my goals as a destination. Reaching the goal, such as a race, represents a final point in training where everything is supposed to come together. It brings closure to all of the hard work that has led to this single day. Yet when I think about my time and effort, where is the bulk of it spent? It is not in that single day, but rather all of the days that lead up to that moment.
I began to think about this on the day that several of my friends ran the Boston Marathon. This year conditions were rough as temperature highs reached the upper 80s. The Boston Athlete Association even went as far as to offer runners a deferment to next year should they choose not to tackle Mother Nature.
Weather is just one of many unknown factors which can play a role in race day performance. Nutrition, sleep and overall health are a few others that immediately come to mind. You might argue that nutrition and sleep are within a person’s control. However, a dear friend of mine just experienced food poisoning the day before the Boston Marathon, which put her in the hospital hooked up to IVs. Sleep can be an unknown. How many times have you stayed in a hotel only to be awoken every 30 minutes by slamming doors or loud neighbors? Health, I could twist an ankle or catch a cold in the final days leading up to the race. The point is, anything can happen. Does this mean that I have failed my goal if an external factor derails my performance?
Destination or journey? Over the years I can pretty much categorize every runner into two boxes: those who train to race, and those who race to train.
Those who train to race are driven by the race itself, the competition, winning or a PR. They may complain about the training and grumble when the alarm goes off but when that gun sounds, it’s game on! Their adrenalin starts flowing and they are in full swing. They look for people who might be in their age group to knock off. They push through any discomfort to keep their projected pace or faster.
On the flip side, there are those who race to train. These are the people who enjoy the training. They enjoy the routine of crawling out of bed before the sun comes up and lacing up their running shoes before their eyes are fully open. They push themselves to hit every split on the track and they are diligent about finishing every workout to the second. They almost set a goal race just so they have the accountability and structure to train. These are the people who relish in the journey.
Sure it is great to set goals. And yes, there is an amazing sense of accomplishment, a high that nothing else can replicate, when that goal is reached. Yet regardless of what motivates you to run, remember there is so much more to running that a single day. Take the time to cherish the journey that leads to your destination. When you stop to smell the roses along the way, it makes reaching the pinnacle that much sweeter.
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