Lessons Learned From A 5K

It’s a warm evening. I feel grateful for the gentle breeze as I stand in the throng of bodies awaiting the start of the race. The sky is a mix of pink, orange and yellow hues against the backdrop of the huge water feature atop the hotel. It’s true. Everything is more magical at Disney.

The buzz of excited chatter grows quiet as the announcer gives final instructions: Set an intention for the race. Who are you running/ walking for? How do you want to show up? “Notice your thoughts while you are in it. Notice how you respond when things get hard. Pay attention to the correlations between how you are running your race and how you are approaching your business and your life.” (This is what happens when the race organizer is a coach! lol!)

I feel a pang in my stomach. Crap! I had signed up for the 5K because it was a fundraiser to support a great cause. (A foundation that teaches women to be successful business owners in Africa so they can support themselves and their children and improve the quality of their lives.) At that point, my intention had been just to show up, have fun and support a worthy cause.
With this edict, I begin to think about how I want to show up and how I could stretch myself.

I tell myself I’m not really a runner. I had planned to walk the race. Now, I make a decision. I’m going to run the race – at my pace – but I’m not going to walk. I’m doing this for me. Just to see if I can because, even though I had successfully run a 5K years before, I had trained for months to do it. I hadn’t been exercising regularly lately so I didn’t think I could do it.

The starter sets us off. The crowd quickly thins as the more seasoned runners sprint ahead. I start out at a slow jog, chattering with a friend from my mastermind group – She is a fast walker so we keep pace with each other. I’m aware of the voice of doubt in my head nattering on “do you think you’ll be able to keep up this pace? Maybe you should just walk”.

I know this voice well and have learned how to handle her: I thank her for sharing and give myself permission to walk if I get too tired to run. This seems to satiate her. She quiets down and I focus on my breath and the beautiful scenery. The tree-lined path runs alongside a lake. There is a toddler running after some ducks.

My legs are starting to tire when I see runners coming back in the opposite direction. Woo hoo! I am nearing the turning point! (I assume this is the half way mark and I am encouraged even though I can’t see it). Others are cheering them on. With outstretched arms, we give each other “high fives” as we pass. I shout “how much further to the turning point?”. Lol!

I feel like a 5 year old hanging over the top of the seat anxiously asking my parents “are we there yet? I realize how much I need encouragement and to know where I am in relation to my goal at any point. It’s a coping mechanism – to help me feel in control and safe. I see this is not serving me and make a conscious decision to let go and just to enjoy the journey. To be present in the moment and not project myself into the future.

This single choice immediately reduces my pain.

My cohort Maribeth and I fall into a natural rhythm. She alternates between a fast walk and a slow jog. I continue my slow, but steady, jog, noticing the occasional competitive impulse to run faster when someone passes me by and how others speed up instead of moving over to let us pass them. Lol!

We have separated from the people we started the race with and fallen in with another group – two women and a man who has flown all the way from Africa to attend this
event. We talk about how life changing this experience has been for him so far. It’s a helpful distraction as the “half way turning point” turned out not to be the half way mark at all!

I am discouraged by this and have to dig a little deeper. I ask for encouragement from my fellow runners and my “accountability partner”. We remind each other to stay present, to breathe and to focus on the big goal. I am determined not to stop. 
My eyes tear up as I realize that, for me, this is symbolic of breaking a life long pattern of stopping myself. Of inconsistency. Of playing “not to lose” instead of “playing to win”.

This clarity – This “aha” – comes in the middle of running the race.

It’s funny how that works. I tell my clients all the time: “You live into clarity”, which means that insight and understanding come as you take action and have experiences. Too often we are waiting to have assurance of an outcome before we even take the first step. That’s not how it works. Your GPS can’t guide you if you are not in motion.

As I crossed the finish line to the cheers of the onlookers, I felt a surge of energy I recognized as pride, self satisfaction and accomplishment. I stretched my aching body and massaged my sore feet (to make sure I could walk the next morning) and I thought of what it really took to successfully complete the race and how much it mirrored what it takes to be successful in life and in business:

1- Get in the race
Say yes, even if you’re not ready. We never really feel… ready. It doesn’t mean you can’t run the race. I come across so many people who are simply existing and not truly living. Allowing fear to stop them from trying something new or changing what’s not working.

2 – Decide.
Set a clear intention (one that matters to YOU)
Know WHY you are choosing to do something and reconnect with it when the going is tough and you want to stop.

3 – Be consistent
Once you have a clear intention (the goal or finish line) focus on staying present to where you are now and taking consistent action steps that take you in the direction of your goal.
4 – Be true to yourself
This requires you to do the work of figuring out what you truly want and value and not comparing yourself to others. Find a pace and a way that works for you and do it consistently and you will achieve your goals.

5 – Have support
When you are changing lifelong patterns and habits, the voice in your head is often doubtful that you can do it (especially if you have been unsuccessful at previous attempts). You are much more likely to succeed with help.
Engage the help and support of others who have “run the path before you”. They know the way. They know the pitfalls and can help you avoid them. They can also help you see things from a different perspective – one you may never have considered.

Surround yourself with others on the same journey. They can encourage you when you want to give up and help hold you accountable to what you say you want to accomplish.

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