This morning during the middle of an interval workout at the indoor track, the feeling of being healthy transitioned into gratitude. While my knee still has a torn bit of meniscus inside and my age works against getting faster year after year, my pace around the track felt as fun and challenging as ever.
Granted, I was running 4 X 800M at 7:15-7:30 pace. So my feet weren’t burning up the track by any means. Instead I was running slightly faster than my most recent race pace at a Thanksgiving Turkey Trot. The thought occurred to me:
“You have to meet yourself where you are.”
That’s the first priority in this world on anything you do. Most of us don’t go around performing miracles. We make progress through incremental improvements and if we’re lucky, have some breakthrough performances.
Those are the moments we live for. But it takes a ton of other less-than-thrilling moments to put yourself into the position where you can break through.
I well remember the time I first broke 32:00 for the 10k. It was an objective I’d set and a clear barrier to break. The race progressed well and the training I’d done served me well. But at three miles I lost the race leaders and the moment of truth hit me: “Now I have to do this on my own.”
It got tough from 4.5 through 5.5 miles. But then I knew there was a chance to achieve my goal. That took grit but I came across the line in 31:58.
There’s a big difference in one’s mind between saying “I ran 31:58” and “I ran 32:04.” There just is. After multiple attempts at breaking 32:00 I could have written myself as incapable of achieving that goal.
But once that goal was achieved, the times really began to drop. Finally I hit 31:10 for 10K, which is exactly 5:00 per mile pace, a noble goal for any journeyman distance runner like me. I’d broken 25:00 for 5 miles and 20:00 for four miles that same summer. So it was inevitable to run a race at 5:00 pace for 10k.
But was it? Inevitable? Not in any respect. It still had to be done, and the race in which it happened, I was not even the winner. I think I finished fourth overall to several teammates in the running club that sponsored us.
It would have been possible in those moments to write myself off. Perhaps you’ve had that feeling during a race. “What will it matter if I do or don’t do my best? Who even cares?”
That’s the fatigue talking, not you. Fatigue can make you say and think all sorts of negative things. It’s a form of self-torture to put yourself through the exhaustion and pain required to train and race your best.
So is it worth it?
It most definitely is. Because as you learn to discipline your mind and body through these sporting efforts, you develop skills transferable to other experiences and actions in life.
You learn not to write yourself off in other ways.
Work problems? Buckle down and concentrate. You can get through.
Relationship issues? Learning to deal with a difficulty to get through to a better mindset is all part of training. It works for relationships too.
Lack of faith in yourself? In God? This thing we call “spirit” lives within us. Learning to call on it during challenging times or when locked in the grip of fear helps us overcome moments of lost faith.
But most of all, it is important not to write yourself off from the start.
You may be in mid-life wondering what if anything really matters.
You could be young and feeling unappreciated or ‘written off’ by those around you.
You could be getting older and seeing he signs of wear and tear on your body from wrinkles to stretch and age marks.
But none of you should allow you to write yourself off. Not on your life.
Meet yourself where you are, and think about the way you want to feel, not the way the world makes you feel.
Then take a step. Then another. Press forward. Find your voice, or your mind, right where it is. Protect what matters but take risks to find that out as well. It’s all a part of balancing your life while moving forward. It’s a delicate act sometimes on running shoes and rubber tires. And it can be easy to feel like you’re drowning in your own concerns when swimming in the pool or way out in open water.
But have courage. Don’t write yourself off. You’re too important for that. The world knows it. Deep down inside, so do you.
Now go for it.