It was a mild spring morning which meant one thing — fog. Lots and lots of fog. So as I sipped my coffee I mulled over my running route. People would be rushing to work and school. The wind wasn’t really a factor. So I decided on an out-and-back route along a main road with wide shoulders making it easier to stay out of the way of traffic.
I put on my crazy fun pink stripped running capris so that (a) I could be seen better by motorists who may not quite be awake yet and (b) because they’re fun and some days I need to take myself less seriously.
My training plan is based on time not mileage and so with just my regular old Timex sport watch (no GPS-enabled gadget) I headed out on my long(ish) run.
I slowly eased into my workout, keeping it light. My legs felt good. Really good. Which made me incredibly happy because last week’s long run felt like a slog through mud. I consciously kept my pace a bit slow, consciously thought about running easy. I started to pick up the pace a bit early, then mentally slowed myself down. I had plenty of time to pick it up on the return.
And I did. Instead of thinking about speed, I thought about running strong. The closer I got to home, the quicker my pace became. Stay mentally strong, I told myself. This run is as much about my mind as it is about my body.
I pushed hard the final 10 minutes, harder than my plan called for. But I felt good. I ran the first part smart and had plenty left in the tank. So I emptied it.
Feeling pretty good about the run I took my water bottle to my laptop and mapped out my run. I was hoping for some validation, confident the numbers would back up my sparkling training run.
Yeah. Not so much.
But I felt great. I worked hard. My return was two minutes faster. Why am I so slow?
I was bummed.
So I immediately jumped on Google chat with my buddy Nate who reminded me today was an easy run. Point taken. And as much as the average pace smacked as a woeful disappointment, it could only erase the feeling of a great, strong run if I let it. I had the power to let the numbers define me if I wanted to.
Results. That’s what we focus on. We name a goal, name the steps and base our success on how quickly and perfectly we execute the plan and get results. The whole “the journey is the destination” is a nice sentiment for inspirational plaques but so often what we’re conditioned to look for is the result. Proof of success. Something we can point to tangibly which says, “see this is how you know I have achieved something worthwhile.”
But those tangible markers, the numbers, the results, are just one source of external measurement. Ignore how we feel, those intangible internal feelings that instinctually guide us, and we don’t just miss the cliched beauty of the journey, we miss an opportunity to see what our best selves really look like.
The challenge is not so much in hitting my goal times, or any other external markers, but in not giving in to defeat when I fall short.
This September, I’m racing Ironman 70.3 Princeton to raise money for Carolyn’s House, a residential housing program for homeless women and their children in Niagara Falls, N.Y. Please consider making a donation. Because every woman should have the tools to write her own life story.