“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
In 2017, I signed up for a 10K race as one of my resolutions to do something challenging. This would be my first race, and I was pretty stoked.
Weeks to the race, I received all race items, and I happily stuck them in a drawer to get to later. However, this never happened until I looked out my window one fine morning to see roadblocks being installed.
“Oh, the race is today”, I said. I had forgotten entirely.
Desperate to not postpone my goal for a later time, I had some eggs and coffee and walked hurriedly to the race venue. I got to the site five minutes to the race and quickly rushed to the start line where hundreds had gathered. There, my lessons begin:
Preparation is Key
On hindsight, starting a 10K for someone with no racing experience and no due diligence done was my worst mistake. Although I had started jogging previously about thrice a week, these distances were nowhere close to my 10K goal.
I soon found out that eggs are not the best to have for a long race as my energy stores were quickly depleted. Observing other racers, I brought nothing to help me on my journey: no playlist, no water, no electrolytes. Around the 5K mark, I was fatigued with nothing for support.
Lesson 1: Setting goals is fine, but finding information on how to execute your goals is more useful. Information from people who have already achieved what you seek can often be invaluable.
Run Your Race
In life, there is a tendency always to compare, but this can be demotivating if you do not consider your circumstances and starting point. During the race, many racers bypassed me, causing me to question my ability and pace. The more I diverted attention to why I was falling back, the more discouraged I became. I failed to see that this was my first time and entering this race was progress enough.
Lesson 2: People have different backgrounds and starting points. It is pointless and futile to compare yourself to others, especially when the benchmarks can vary significantly for one individual to the next.
Accept help when you are struggling
Around the 6K mark, my breathing got out of control, and my legs were giving way. I stopped and lay on a nearby grass to avoid passing out completely. I remember feeling shame as other racers and spectators wondered what was going on. I felt like a failure at that moment.
Quitting the race at that point was more humiliating, and there was nowhere to go; my bag and keys were kilometers away at the race start line.
Some bystanders offered me some snacks and electrolytes, but I refused because I was too busy beating myself over my underperformance and shame.
Lesson 3: Accept help when you are struggling. Others often mean well and have the resources to help you get back up.
Keep Track of Your Progress with Milestones
Having refused help and lying at the roadside, I lift my eyes and see that the 7K milestone is just a few yards away. Knowing I had already run almost 70% of the race gave me the motivation to finish the other 3K. If that milestone were not available, I would have quit as I had no indication of how close or far I was from the finish line.
Lesson 4: Have a realistic way to track your progress. It can be the difference between you being successful or otherwise.
Reflect and Learn
I get to write this piece because I decided to reflect on my experience and learn from it. I am now a better runner than when I ran that race. I have a better knowledge of what foods to eat before a race, apps to help me prep for my race, what I can do during my run to make it more fun.
Lesson 5: Reflection is critical for learning and empowerment
In summary, do set goals. But more importantly, put in the processes and systems to ensure you have a better chance of reaching them. A happy new year and best of luck!