5 Lessons from Running and How it Applies to Goals

It was a Saturday morning. The alarm jolts me awake at 6am. I really didn’t want to get out of bed, and it took a good minute or two for me to get orientated. I stumbled to the kitchen where shoes, shorts, and shirt were waiting. I made a coffee, ate a bowl of cereal, and, just before 7am, I headed out the door. 

I ran 21.3km that Saturday morning – a half marathon – not an official race or event but just a normal weekend long run. How did I get to the point where I can wake up at 6am on a Saturday and run a half marathon for kicks? 

Now just to be clear, I won’t be setting any records, but I can run a decent distance at an average pace. I have been able to run most of my life, but I have never consistently stuck with it. It’s been something that I’ve done in fits and bursts – go hard, fizzle out, pick up again 12 months later, repeat. 

It’s only been in the last year and a bit that something has changed. In 2018 I clocked up 139 runs, with a total distance of 1201 kms. My PB’s are not amazing, but I am proud of where I have got them.

1 mile6:27
Marathon (the one and only time I have run this far) 4:15:59

Back to this Saturday morning run. It was wet and cold, and I wanted to postpone. My legs were tired, and the last thing I wanted to do was run. Nevertheless, I headed out that door and took the first steps. Afterwards, I was drained, yet I felt immensely satisfied with myself. 

The 5 big lessons I have learnt from running this year are: 

  • Take one step
  • Committing to events 
  • Setting realistic goals & being happy with the short run 
  • Running with others and talking about your runs 
  • Breaking a run down into sections

Take one step:whether it is the first step or somewhere in the middle, I usually hit a point where I don’t feel like running anymore (or at all). Rather than thinking about the whole distance, I just think about the next few steps and take them. Naturally, this gets me going which leads to the km’s being ticked away. I usually feel like I cannot be bothered starting, but I always feel stoked for finishing. 

This is the same in multiple projects I have been a part of. I usually hit a wall part way through. Instead of thinking about the entire project or how much is left to do, I just think of doing one more little thing to move it forward, even if that one little thing is something simple like tidying my desk. 

Committing to events:The events have kept me training, kept me pushing, and kept me working. The other thing that happens when I commit to a big event is, inevitably, I set a goal for the event, and this leads to a training plan. 

With a running plan, you don’t run all day every day, but you do specific runs during the week. 

This is the same with your big goals; they aren’t things you’re consumed with 24/7 but something you put blocks of purposeful and consistent effort towards. Just like doing 3 – 4 runs a week (in reality only a small fraction of my free time) leads to me running 42km, which previously felt impossible. 

Setting realistic goals:Instead of fooling myself into thinking I am magically going to improve, I need to be realistic about my current abilities. I have realized that if I slow it down a notch, I can go way further than I originally thought. Sometimes I stop and take a breath, stretch my legs. This isn’t cheating or failure because, ultimately, I am just racing myself 

I have learnt to be happy with the short run; not every run I do has to be massive or fast. Sometimes it’s an achievement to just get out there. Often, we can set ourselves these lofty goals and set a really high standard we want to achieve. Naturally, this doesn’t happen the first time around, and we get disheartened and stop. 

Or worse, we wait for the perfect idea or plan when we could have just got out there and started. 

Running with others:The reason I couldn’t postpone the run I was talking about earlier, the 6am morning 21km, is because I was meeting a friend Karl to run with. 

It’s pretty simple – doing stuff with other people keeps you accountable. 

Taking it one step further, talking to people about what you’re going to do helps too. Once it’s verbalized and out there, it’s amazing how you’re more motivated to make it happen. 

Breaking a run down into sections:I always break it down in my mind; get to here and when I am x amount of the distance, I plan out the sections, play them out in my head – the bridge, the park, the golf course, the shops, home stretch. 

On a really long run, I will give myself “rewards” of food and drink each km or segment that I achieve. It’s a really little way of signifying you have achieved something. Break your project into segments. Make a point to stop and reward yourself with a coffee or beer, andthen keep going to the next segment. 

Run to Rivendell from Lord of the Rings

Check out some of my running adventures here, including this run to the Rivendell set from Lord of the Rings.

The lessons I have learnt running have transferred into other aspects of my life, I hope they inspire you to achieve the goals you’re working towards.