On your way to success, you might have to adjust your goal
In May 2014 I decided that I had to leave my comfort zone, for running at least… and I had to leave it big. I always ask my clients to do new things, dare. And now, it was my turn. So I challenged myself to run the toughest marathon in the world in 2017: The Great Wall Marathon, on the Chinese wall. In this blog I will explain why I will never reach that goal.
My comfort zone in running are the shorter distances road races (max. 10k, but rather a speedy 5k) or middle long distance obstacle runs (around 13k, but rather a blistering 7). For me, that is known territory, I know I can do well and I even win sometimes. So that is well within my comfort zone.
I know: when you want to grow, you have to step outside your comfort zone. Do something new. That is why I decided to crank up the distances. During my years long stint in natural bodybuilding running long distances was an absolute no-no from my coach. Gaining muscle mass and long distance running don’t go hand in hand. (Look at professional marathon runners and you see why).
“I wil run the Great Wall Marathon in China in May 2017, within 6 hours”, I told myself. My reasoning: elite runners do it in 3 hours, so with 3 years of preparation a 6 hour time cap is realistic and physical attainable. That was and still is my professional opinion. I wanted to give myself ample time to prepare: I didn’t want to copy Erben Wennemars’ (Dutch Olympic speed skater) first marathon, untrained and unprepared. Especially because the marathon I chose has 5.000 steps up and down. So I needed a plan.
First 1/2 marathon
I had some experience in 19k and 22k obstacle and cross runs, so I decided to venture out on the road: the The Hague 1/2 marathon in September 2014.
The first 10k went brilliantly! I had an end time schedule of less than 1 hour 50 minutes. Until we hit the beach and I saw my time shoot up. But… running still felt great and that was my initial goal: have a great run and enjoy it.
Too bad for me: the man with the hammer waited for me at 19k. I did finish the 21k (and a bit), but it wasn’t enjoyable anymore. On the contrary! With an expression of pain on my face I finished in 1:58, “Good thing I didn’t go over 2 hours” (a mean voice in my head kept repeating). A lot of work had to be done, before I would conquer the Chinese wall in 2017… and enjoy the run.
In the week after the The Hague 1/2 marathon I decided to pump up my training motivation by enrolling in a lot of races. A lot! If I would have to do long distance training, than rather in a group or event, as an incentive. In the 2014/2015 in enrolled in literally a dozen of races (distances between 8 and 21 kilometer). That will get that distance thing sorted in my legs….
For the 2015/2016 season I was planning 5 to 10 events, but crank up the distance to 15-35 kilometers. My marathon debut would be in May 2016. A year before the Wall. I did a seminar with CrossFit Endurance and became a coach in that. Through that method I would keep my speed up and would be able to still do strength training (my first love after all). That was the plan.
So here I am, in the second phase of that plan to get me over the Chinese wall in 2017. Before I settled in to do some race enrolling, I evaluated the previous running season. What was the state of my body and mind? Was I still enjoying the runs and looking forward to reaching my goal?
The answer? Of the 12 races I planned, I started in 7. In 3 of those 7 I decided to run a shorter distance, because I didn’t feel fit or I had just recovered from injury. So in only 4 out of 12 events I had reached my goal of doing the distance and enjoying it. Those where the 8 to 10 kilometer races.
What was going on? I analyzed myself: the past year I didn’t feel any passion for running, while ‘enjoyment of longer distances’ was one of my guideposts for success. I wanted joy in running, learn to pace myself and stay in one piece. Okay, I was aware that 35+ kilometer runs come with discomfort, while doing them and afterwards.
I was surprised about the negativity and dislike I experienced when preparing and actually running over 13k races. My end evaluation was: I didn’t enjoy it at all, on the contrary: I hated it!
Last month I did a business bootcamp with Nisandeh Neta at Open Circles. He explained something about reaching your goal, making small choices that have a huge effect on weather you are on the road to success or on the road to failure. And a very important question in that is: are you pursuing the right goal?
I was on the road to failure: not only my mind was yelling NO, but my body also. I had so many (small) injuries I lost count, even though I planned rest, recovery, foam rolling and even physical therapy twice a week. To no avail!
I did recognize I had grown over the years, because I didn’t push myself through the injury, through the race and wreck my body. I didn’t ignore the signals my body was sending, also hoping that some day it will work itself out. But looking back on the season, that attitude didn’t yield enough kilometers in training and made me almost hate running, all running.
With these result of my evaluation I talked to Brenda. She asked: “Did the things you did give you the good feeling you were after. Is this getting you closer to your goal?”. I answered no. Then she asked: “If it’s not giving getting you closer to your goal, why are you willing to take the pain and frustration?”. I had to think about that one. Then I realized that I would think of myself as a failure, I I feared my clients wouldn’t take me seriously anymore if I gave up on the task that I had set for myself. Because I ask them to commit all the time.
Then she asked: “Have you ever changed a plan for a client once they realized they were pursuing a wrong goal for them?”. Yes, of course I have. That is the first thing I discuss with people who are new to training with me: “We are going to find a training that you enjoy and that will get you closer to your goal. Otherwise training will become another boring chore on your to do list”.
Then light in my head went on: I was doing something I didn’t enjoy at all, neither physically nor mentally… and my only results where stress and misery. The only thing that kept me going was my ego: because I proclaimed I was going to do it, there was no way back. Even if my (more important) goals of enjoying running and going for an excisting adventure were suffering. I was on the road to failure, not the road to success. I had set a goal that ended up being the wrong goal for me. Time to correct! I want to be on the road to success again.
My insight from this ‘intervention’: adjust your goal if it is taking all your joy and when you realize it is taking you away from your full potential. You always have a choice to adjust the road your on and to choose the road to success again. I did just that! So what if I won’t run a marathon over the great wall in China.
Note: From the moment I made this decision a giant weight was lifted of my shoulders and I enjoy training again, even when it is running!