Sometimes we need to do crazy things to learn, to live, and to better love.
I did just that in October by running a 50-mile race – something I never dreamed I would do. Well, maybe in a nightmare!
Prior to this, the longest distance I covered was 50K or roughly 31 miles. So this was a considerable stretch from any semblance of a comfort zone. 61.29% of a stretch to be exact.
Here are three lessons that I learned.
1. BHAGs rock
In the book Good to Great, author Jim Collins describes the setting of large, sometimes daunting organizational goals. He affectionately refers to such goals as Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals (BHAGs… pronounced Bee Hags).
Running this distance was truly a BHAG for me.
I set this BHAG almost on a whim 2 years prior at the start of the same race. The year of BHAG declaration I was competing as part of a relay team splitting the distance. It was accidental, but essential for me to set this goal with a proper amount of lead-time to be able to build for it – mostly mentally, but physically too.
Another important piece of this was to declare and share my BHAG with others. I did this from day one in a very specific, no wiggle room way – I WILL complete the Fall 50 solo in 2018. Declaring created sound accountability. Sharing created a channel of encouragement and support.
2. Small goals get the job done
Though the presence of the BHAG provided the inspiration to get to the start line, it meant little when it came to executing on race day. Small goals dominated my mind.
What began as simple task mantras like get dressed and get started, or relax and get to the next aid station turned even more short-term as the race progressed.
Thinking one-mile marker at a time got me through the first three quarters of the race. However, the final heart, thigh, and gut wrenching quarter consisted of a different variety of thoughts… just make it to that tree... or get your ass to the mailbox…. or make it to that curve in the road and you can stop.
Fortunately, I never stopped!
Any deep thoughts of the overall distance would have crushed me many times during the race. The keys to executing on the BHAG jingle on a ring of many unique, tiny goals looped together.
To be completely honest, the aid station chocolate chip cookies helped a lot too :) One cookie at a time!
3. Present moment thinking frees & allows
After the race, many people asked how it was? My consistent answer - it was good, beer and pizza please!
I didn’t really remember a lot of the race in detail due to being so focused on the present moment while getting it done. Sure, pain was present… but simply embraced as part of the experience. The weather was a total shit show… but was merely conditions that I needed to outmuscle.
I did not have energy to focus on the past or the future. I could only contend with the exact moment I was in.
I couldn’t worry about what I ate yesterday and how it might affect me.
I couldn’t anticipate how sore I was going to be on Monday.
I couldn’t obsess about whether I trained enough.
I couldn’t worry about the weather forecast for the afternoon.
It was absolutely freeing to be completely in the moment. Present moment thinking was not just a luxury... it was a vital, unexpected ingredient needed to accomplish the feat. Allowing my mind to spend time unnecessarily in the past would have caused doubt. While allowing it to drift into the future would have caused anxiety.
One more note
There is one additional 4th lesson that fits somewhere in here, but I’m not going to try to weave it into any of the above.
Kind gestures from others helped me persevere and practice gratitude along the way.
There was the man at the halfway mark who gave me his hands warmers just as doubt was creeping in. And the fellow runner that made me laugh through his jovial banter with family at a late race aid station. Then there was the course volunteer that pointed us home on the last turn of the course and graciously agreed to my request for a hug. Bless her! And finally, there was my loving wife telling me how f'ing proud of me she was with tears in her eyes.
Sometimes it takes every ounce of kindness from others to get us safely to where we need to be. This was certainly true on this day... and more recognizable because of the circumstances. One of my favorite authors, Matthew Kelly, calls such events holy moments. Too often, I'm not aware or appreciative of these holy moment gifts that others bless me with on a daily basis. I’m sure you can relate.
This day I noticed.
So, I walk away from these 50 miles a bit wiser, and sincerely hope my experience can help you.
Now, you can ignore all of the words above and walk away with these concise takeaways…
- Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals set your destination (to learn)
- Small goals and present moment thinking provide the fuel (to live).
- The holy moment kindness in each of us, when extended to others, keeps us from falling asleep at the wheel (to better love).
Authored by: Mark Cumicek
This post originally appeared on LinkedIn