Fast forward to today, when I completed my first half marathon. If you would have told my junior high self that she would one day not only run a full 2 km, but essentially do it more than 10 times in a row, I'm not sure how she would have responded. The even crazier part? I ENJOY running now, especially at this time of the year when it's a comfortable 11C (in the 50s for all you Yanks) and the leaves are out in full.
There was a transition between my running-loathing junior high self and my current running-loving self, and that's what I really want to talk about. When I started to focus on really getting into good physical shape, I picked up running because you can throw your runners (sneakers for you Yanks or trainers for you Brits) into a suitcase and run everywhere. While I've only really been training since September, it was around three years ago that I first started dabbling in running. At that time, I threw "run a half marathon" on my bucket list as a crazy, I-don't-know-if-I-can-achieve-this-but-wouldn't-it-be-cool-if-I-did stretch goal. For context, I think at that time I was doing walk/run intervals with the weight being much more heavy on the walking.
My accomplishments in running (if I'm allowed to call them that!) have been leading me to ponder what I've learned about goal setting and personal development.
- Set SMART goals. Running is really conducive to setting goals that are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Timely. My first running goal was to run 5km in 30 minutes. I can point to the specific run on my Runkeeper app where I achieved this. With personal development and business goals, it can be more challenging to make goals SMART, but finding a way to do this will help significantly in actually achieving them! It also prevents you from slacking off when you're almost there.
- Have a plan. If you were paying attention, you may have noticed that I actually started running a little about three years ago, but didn't really start training until last September. I would say that between three years ago and last September, I made relatively little progress - I had gone from a run/walk of 2 or 3 km to a very slow 5 km run. Since September, I've quadrupled my total running distance and made a significant dent in my pace. The difference between these two periods? A plan. I'll be honest, if left to my own devices, my accomplishments would have been minuscule. But I felt my goal was too important to leave to chance and enlisted the help of my sister, who happens to know how to build workout plans from her undergraduate education. When your goals are tied to an organization, the plan is even more important as those involved will want to know how they can contribute.
- Keep at it. Tooting my own horn again, I'm going to tell you that I've run through deep, slippery snow (and been sprayed on by a snow clearing truck), pouring rain, and nearly-sweltering sun. There were days that I was really tempted to skip my distance runs, but I did it anyway. (Unless I was sick, which happened once, and my trainer excused me. ;-)) It can be easy to give up along the way, but every amount of progress that we make is really the culmination of a whole lot of little decisions to just keep on going.
- Celebrate the victories along the way. I've set a number of mini-goals on my journey to the half-marathon. I remember excitedly texting my sister the first time I ran 5km in under 30 minutes. My first 10km run was in Central Park. I don't "reward" myself for each accomplishment (aside: studies have shown that adding a reward to an accomplishment can actually cheapen the accomplishment), but I share it and I revel in it. When you're setting goals and achieving them, people want to be happy for you!
- Set a new goal once you're done. Life is boring if you coast. I'm toying with figuring out what comes next. I'm definitely eyeing a faster time for the BAA Half in October, or maybe my first (and likely only) marathon at Disney World in January. Anyway, regardless of what I decide, it's important that I don't just stop here. If we aren't improving, we're falling behind.