I’ve always liked travelling by car. And I’ve always subjected my family to my endless wanderlust. On many outings when my son was a small child, he would moan from the back seat, “Are we there yet?”
My response was always, “Yep, we’re here.” He would sit up eagerly and look out of the window. Then, in a disappointed tone, he would say, “Aw Dad, this isn’t where we’re going.” And I’d reply, “But this is where we are.” My son was not a happy traveller.
Unlike my approach to travelling, however, every time I started down a path towards better health and weight loss, I’d choose a destination. In terms of losing weight, I’d tell myself that when I’d lost 10 or 20lbs, I’d be thin. And every day I’d stand on the scales and ask myself if I was there yet. Of course, the answer was always no.
Oh, I’d come close sometimes. I’d lose a few pounds, then gain a couple, then lose a few more. I’d get stuck in a cycle of three steps forwards, two steps back. And each time I lost ground, it was harder to move forwards.
When I started running I also chose a destination. I decided that when I could run three miles, I’d be a runner. I was convinced that three miles was as far as any rational person would want to run. And sometimes I still do think that it’s as far as any rational person would want to run.
So out I’d go – without reaching the three miles. Day after day I failed in my goal. Day after day I accumulated evidence that I was not a runner. Every run hammered in the fact that I wasn’t there yet.
But the point I’d failed to realise about running was the very one which I already knew about travelling: the key is to enjoy the journey. Refusing to feel happy until you reach your destination is the worst possible approach. Leaving your celebration until the end means missing all the wonderful moments along the way.
In my ignorance and enthusiasm to reach my running goals, I took every possible shortcut. I was sure that I could find a magic carpet to transport me to my destination. It never occurred to me that I’d have to get there one step at a time.
Every new runner knows the mentality: if running three days a week is good, running six days a week must be twice as good; if running fast one day a week improves your speed, running fast every day must be even better. And when this type of ignorance teams up with enthusiasm, the result is almost always injury.
The enjoy-the-ride idea didn’t occur to me the first time I was injured. And it didn’t the second or third times, either. But eventually, as weeks of recovery replaced weeks of training, my perspective began to shift. I realised that every run is a gift. Every run is a chance to be where you want to be.
With this revelation, my running changed. I stopped denying the joy I was feeling. I stopped accumulating days of failure. I began living more ‘in the moment’, looking at each run as an opportunity to appreciate what was right in front of me.
The results of this change are not only philosophical, but practical as well. I recently went for a run while I was travelling. It was a Wednesday morning, the day I normally do some faster interval work. But on this Wednesday, I found myself standing in the middle of several acres of sunflowers; I was neck-deep in a sea of yellow in the bright morning sun. I knew the speedwork would have to wait. On this day, my gift to myself was an easy run surrounded by thousands of smiling yellow faces.
I’m still not there yet. On days when I struggle to find a pace or a distance that suits me, I know that my goal is still some distance down the road. But I am where I am. And I can truthfully tell you that it’s better than anywhere else I’ve ever been.
Waddle on, friends.