Several years ago I pulled a Gump. I just started run-ning. I was taking my inspiration from a family friend who had started running simply to improve his overall health and has gone on to run over 18 marathons. My father-in-law followed his example, in part, and also started running longer distances entering various races – although no marathons yet. For the first several years I was happy staying in the 5k range. Then it happened. I started pushing myself to run longer distances simply to see if I could do it. When I successfully completed 10 miles on a treadmill my decision was made: I’m going to train and run a half-marathon. I registered for the half-marathon event in the Baltimore Running Festival taking place October 10th.
The training program I am following consists of several runs during the week, followed by an increasingly long run over the weekend. This past Saturday morning I took the dog for a walk, ate something light, and headed down to the BWI Trail for my first 10 mile outside run in preparation for the coming event. I had been thinking about this all week. Preparing mentally. Visualizing success. Seeing myself pushing through obstacles that may arrive: sweat, cramping, pain, heat…maybe even the battery dying on my iPod. When I arrive the place is packed with bikers, families, and other runners. I park, stretch, and double check the map:
As I start running I’m still thinking about what lays ahead of me. I’ve never run this trail before so the challenge added to the distance is exciting. Settling in I keep a slow pace knowing that this run is going to take work, focus, and some form of strength. As I run I keep following the trail markers. Then it happens. I notice that even tough I’m on a marked trail…I am no longer anywhere near BWI. Somehow I left one trail and followed another. For almost 40 minutes. Running. In the heat and humidity of Maryland in August. In my confusion and frustration I stop, find a map, and try to figure it out. There has to be a way to salvage this run! Not that day. Not for me. I was so far mentally out of the game that I simply took the loss and walked the 3 -4 miles I had just run back to my car.
I had a lot to think about on the walk. I started to make some connections in my mind.
- All the preparation didn’t matter. A simple mistake still took me completely off course. Are there other simple mistakes that are hindering progress: in my family, in my business, in my friendships?
- Once off course I allowed myself to mentally get out of the game. Am I really “in the game” as I should be or do I allow myself to be mentally taken out more often than I realize?
- I simply misread the trail markers. What other “trail markers” am I missing?
- How can I make sure that next time I run this trail I do it right? How can I be sure I don’t miss the right signs?
I thought about these questions and more. I tossed them at my home life. I threw my work and business up against them. I considered various friendships and relationships. I realized that having someone to help you see the trail markers could be very beneficial. When is the last time I asked someone else to check out the map, review my course, and let me know if they think I’m still on the trail? If they tell me I’m not on the right trail…am I going to stay in the game or call it a day and walk back?
Here’s the connection: Do you ever wonder if you’re still on the right trail? I would encourage you to seek out some appropriate counsel. Spouse, friend, boss, pastor, another leader, a professional peer…whatever and whoever would fit with your situation. (Not sure who could help? Let me know. I’ll do what I can to help you make a connection that could be helpful to you and your specific situation.) Sit down. Talk. Have an actual conversation. And listen.
But most of all. Above all else. Pay close attention to the trail markers.