I had the pleasure yesterday of listening to some very intelligent and articulate leaders in our district talking about their roles, their vision and ideas for the coming year. One of these spoke to something dear to my heart, the sport of running and endurance events.
I was most attentive to her description of hill running, her approach and thoughts as the pace slows and the body tires. She described how she put her head down, pushed through the challenge and overcame the obstacle, so to speak. I’ve done a lot of running, and talked to a lot of people, and this is a common approach. The hills are a struggle, it’s a challenge laid in front of you that you must overcome. Its mano-a-mano, out there on the tarmac, only the strongest survive. In fact, I had the great pleasure of running the Boston Marathon this past spring, and doing perhaps the most legendary slope in all of sport, the famous Heartbreak Hill. It’s there you see the intense effort and concentration on the faces of athletes who test themselves to the limit.
Afterward I had the chance to talk with her, and share a few of the things I’ve learned about sport that came to mind when I heard her speak. In particular, the profound metaphor running presents us about our whole lives, and our approach to all difficult tasks. What I’ve come to understand is the great value in maintaining a joyous mindset at all times when you run. More than just positive psychology and all that, there’s an energy and a newfound sense of freedom you experience, based on your thoughts and attitudes during these great challenges. In life and in running.
What do I mean? Here’s the thought in action. During the last few events I’ve done, including Ironman Canada last August, my principle focus has been to experience the event fully, thank the volunteers, smile and “high five” the spectators, arrive at the finish with a smile on my face and a warm heart. This is a big change for someone whose been primarily focused on performance, times and achievement. But what I’ve discovered, to my amazement, is that my performance actually improves when I have this outlook, and my overall enjoyment of the event is much greater as well. At the Ironman, I was able to achieve a faster time at 47 than I did at the peak of my fitness as a 24 year old in 1988, part of which I attribute to this approach.
So, that was my comment to our guest speaker, and it reminded me too as I head into this new journey to thank the people, be grateful for everyone and everything and fully enjoy the experience. It’s not about what you get when you reach the finish, it’s about who you become in the process and what it teaches you about life.