Starting on January 5th, I engaged in a four day running journey doing a 5k, 10k, half marathon and then a full marathon in Orlando, Florida, completing Walt Disney World’s Dopey Challenge for their marathon weekend. I was inspired to do this from my good friend Tyler when he completed the same run the previous year.
My training started in earnest last February, beginning with a one mile run and building from there. Throughout the year, I completed a number of 5k, 10k and half marathon races as milestones in preparation for the big weekend. The training was challenging on multiple levels, especially as the mileage and intensity increased.
As you can imagine I learned a lot from this past year of running and training, so I wanted to share a few of those reflections. Here is what running taught me:
1. Indirect Effort Can Change Everything
Twelve months ago, I would have never identified myself as a “runner”. However, over the course of a year my mentality changed. I began to feel more in shape as my mileage increased and my mindset toughened.
With this mental shift came consistent discipline, better eating and an overall sense of self-control. I found that over the holidays, I couldn’t just “let myself go”. (Though I wanted to!) I had big training days coming-up and the race weekend was less than a month away. As a result, I gained less weight this Christmas than ever before!
Discipline in one area positively affects all aspects of your life. It’s the blessing of indirect effort.
2. Creating Time to Focus on the Important Tasks (yet not urgent) is Crucial
For the first seven months of my training, getting my run in never seemed very urgent. There were always emails to send, phone calls to return and projects to work on. Yet, it had to be prioritized or I would regret it later.
Of course, once I was into my run all of those tasks seemed less urgent. In these times I gained perspective, talked to God, felt better and received some of my most creative ideas and solutions. It always became the best decision of my day.
Since the Dopey Challenge, I am now more consistently focused. I am reading more, prioritizing long-term goals and encouraging others to do the same – even though I have emails in my inbox!
Keep your focus on your long term goals. The urgent will always be there! Important things yield the most fruit over time, not what’s urgent.
3. Setting Goals That Have Concrete, Real and Big Prizes at the End Is Essential
Before the Dopey Challenge, running seemed like all cost and no benefit. However, this Disney marathon was different. It was a real race, with a real date on the calendar and real a medal at the end. Once I crossed the finish line I knew I would feel the accomplishment.
Too often our motivations are couched in negative statements like, “I must get back to the gym or I really have to get back in shape.” But where’s the prize? The Goal? The Win? Or the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? By focusing your goals in terms of positive, concrete solutions you will receive the needed motivation. This makes the pain worth it.
Dream Big! If the prize isn’t real or big enough to make the pain of change worth it, you’ll never endure the sacrifice or make the changes you need to make.
4. Executing and Owning Your Plan is a Non-Negotiable
Lots of people helped me achieve this goal. During my training, I had the amazing support of my wife, I joined running groups, read books on running, connected with others who ran marathons and kept people posted on my progress.
However, at the end of the day no one could run for me. I had to do it, and most days I didn’t want to! It was a challenge running in 100 degree heat in Myrtle Beach, running in impossible hills in Melbourne, Australia, running eight miles after getting off an overnight flight to Brazil, and even enduring a cold 20 degree run in Cincinnati.
Life doesn’t stop for your running schedule. It’s early mornings, late nights, and midday runs. In all, I ran in five countries, three continents and in over ten states. The hardest part was putting my emotions away. I didn’t feel like running over the holidays. The last thing I wanted to do before, during or after travel was get my run in. If I ran only when I “felt like it” I would have rarely completed a training day. I had to decide. I was the only one who could do it for me.
You’re the only person who can accomplish your goals. While you need others to walk alongside you, in the end you must decide to do it. It’s a decision, not an emotion.
5. Current Challenges Will Enable You Tackle Even Bigger Challenges
Over the years, I have met people who have stopped challenging themselves, quit taking risks, and given up on making themselves better. So I am glad I took this challenge. It’s opening me up to new ideas and more possibilities that I want to go after.
What’s your big challenge or next goal? Have there been adventures or goals you’ve been putting off? Today is the time to go for it, take the risk, and take a bold step out!
Greater opportunities only come when we scale the mountains ahead of us. If we aren’t careful, we stop trying. We’ll settle for less than what God has designed for us. Now’s your time, to get up and go for it!