Start with a Single Step

23 days.

I’m paralyzed with fear.  Overwhelmed.  Feeling a little sick to my stomach.

It’s 23 days until my next marathon, and I feel like the whole idea is just too much.  It seems like I’ve been training forever, but that my progress has been nil. Starts… and…stops… and…travel… and…heat… and…pain… and…yadda…yadda…yadda.

23 day and counting.

So that’s where my thinking has been for a while.  Every day, I try to ignore the countdown widget on my cell phone.  I just look at the day’s calendar and try to figure out when I can possibly squeeze in the scheduled workout.  Now, I find myself on a long flight back from Phoenix, and I realized that the ebook I wanted to read isn’t synced on my laptop.  So I just picked up on the book I had available:  Switch:  How to Change When Change is Hard, by Chip and Dan Heath.  Hrrrrmph.

I think I have wanted to sulk and fret and basically beat up on myself for a while now.  I’m not sure why that is, but there it is.  I have not yet gotten “into the groove” with my training.  I want that feeling, but the reality is that it’s just not there right now.  The challenge is to change my perspective and expectations so that I can do what I really want to do.  And that, my friends, falls into the category of “change when change is hard.”

Of course, as the universe would have it, I read just those sections of the book that I needed right now.  First, there was the part where they discuss that negative feelings constrict my entire world view .  When I am in fear, all I become razor focused on the negative.  When I experience a positive emotion, I expand mentally and emotionally.  I know from experience that if I focus on feelings of pain or hopelessness or inadequacy, I see/feel/hear/think of nothing else.  I see only what I can’t do – not what I can.  Often, that translates into a shortened training run, which virtually guarantees my fear of inadequacy on race day.   On the contrary, when I feel relaxed and confident, when I’m seeing the trees and sky and hearing the birds, I find the miles just go by.  And isn’t that why I run???

Then, of course, I had to read the part that I could have written so I can remember that it applies to me, too.  In fact, I probably have written it as a suggestion to many a friend.  It’s all about breaking big objectives into micro-milestones.  How many times do I tell people that I set my watch to only see the mile that I’m currently running?  It’s all about the quick wins, the mini-accomplishment that starts the snowball down the mountain.

I get what I need, and I needed those reminders tonight on this bumpy flight home.  I’ll do another 20-miler this weekend, just one mile – or one minute – at a time.  I’ll try to remember to celebrate the quick wins, then do them again.

I don’t know if the Heath Brothers meant their book as an inspiration to a frustrated runner, but tonight, that’s exactly what it was.  Let’s get this Elephant moving, and Ride it to the finish line!

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2 Responses to Start with a Single Step

  1. Shelton says:

    I might add that I’ll be going through this same anxiety around Thanksgiving…

  2. Shelton says:

    You have pretty much described my anxiety of a month ago. Along the way, I took inspiration from that very same book (as well as one of the books it recommends, Carol Dweck’s Mindset; I later discovered Heidi Grant Halvorson’s Succeed. She is one of Dweck’s former students). I am not normally a self-help/productivity book reader, but all those were very helpful to me, especially in my marathon training. Now if I can get it working on this rat’s nest of a home office…

    I have no doubt that you’ll be ready for Richmond. But will Richmond be ready for you?

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