Two years ago, same time of year, I was making behavior-shifting pacts with myself. I know it was this time of year because it was a few weeks before I was to run the Boston Marathon and I was not ready despite my training. Frankly I would never be ready. I wasn't a long-distance runner but I needed to believe -- believe I could make it to the finish line. I needed an attitude shift to keep my negative thoughts at bay. Why the hell did I ever commit to doing this? But then I started to replay in my mind what I had learned in my marathon training process. I am deeply grateful to Steven Covey and his book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey got me to the finish line and it was the biggest run of my life .
6 Months Prior/COMMIT: With the goal set, my heart was rapid firing just thinking about what I had committed to. What was I thinking? I had never run a marathon before, let alone done more than five miles of running. How was I going to prepare and be ready for this? My dear friends, many of whom are runners, weren't going to be doing this with me, so I didn't have any training partners. In addition, I split my time between Boston and New York and the back and forth made it difficult to keep a consistent schedule. I needed a strategy, a support system, a --pardon the pun -- road map.
Action Plan: I hired a coach in Boston. Together we drew up a plan which included a 30-mile-a-week running schedule. There was one big problem for me: TIME. I wanted to fit my runs and my visits with friends into a two-hour time slot. The running required more of a time commitment than I was prepared for. I still wanted, and needed, some time with my friends and husband, not to mention needing energy for my work, yet I desperately needed to train. If I missed a training run I figured I could walk with a friend, and catch up on mileage later in the day. But after a few weeks juggling this routine, I was exhausted from trying to double dip. Something had to give. Even my coach said I was burning the candle at both ends.
And so I turned to one of my favorite books for inspiration. In Steven Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, he talks about putting first things first. That is Habit #3 and it struck a chord with me. My coach kept reminding me, "If you're not part of your own plan you'll be part of someone else's." I was still churning with the tug of war between missing my "social time" (i.e. girlfriend and hubby time) and staying focused on achieving my goal.
My first big test was the 15K in Central Park with the New York Road Runners which magically fell on my birthday! I was worried my running buddies wouldn't want to get up at 6 a.m. on a Sunday morning to drive into the city to be with me but I wanted and needed to do the run for my training miles.
Here's when the shift happened. I emailed everyone saying I had signed up for the run and if they would like to join in and celebrate with me that would be great. As much as I needed and wanted their support, I was also ready to face the challenge head-on without them. That was a big step for me. I crossed my fingers and hit "send." To my amazement -- and joy -- I got a unanimous YES!
The fact that I was prepared to run without my support system was surprisingly liberating. But the cherry on top was that my buddies showed up too. We even celebrated after with a birthday brunch of French toast with a candle.
Habit #3 worked: I could put first things first. Back in Boston I began to run for miles on end -- alone. Surprisingly, I was OK... happy, even. I enjoyed listening to books on tape as I ran, great music and lots of quiet thinking time. This new mindset carried me throughout the long, long, L-O-N-G road to the Boston Marathon's finish line April 18th, 2011 despite my last minute doubts. It was a runner's high I will never forget.
Fast forward to this week: I just completed the New York Half Marathon a few weeks ago --slowly, very slowly. The great news was I carried Habit #3 with me all the way to that finish. My girlfriends and I signed up together but we we were not able to always train together. That was now ok. We did the best training we could dealing with our own crazy schedules. (Same buddies from the birthday run.) Once we were committed, we took care of ourselves and on the day of the run we totally supported one another.
Life on the Road feels a whole lot better now as I have incorporated my new philosophy to first commit and next, to make myself the #1 part of my own training plan to reach my goal. The finish line is truly the icing on what is already a tasty, satisfying cake.