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Key life lessons from a Long distance run

Virgin London Marathon 2012

I recently participated and completed the Contours Women’s Day 10K Run. While the run was as much a tribute to the women as much it was to my passion for running, I could gather some useful lessons from this run as well.

My key learnings from this run were-

Starting all over again is a often underrated but an effective skill that could be learned:

To explain the context here a bit, the route of Contours Women’s Day 10K Run was a tad different that the ones I have run in the past. Though I have run on the park (in Bangalore) on which this run happened, it wasn’t the same route. The official definition of the route said - The 10K starts from Kanteerva stadium, goes into Cubbon park and does 2 loops inside the park and ends with one loop inside the stadium.

So basically it involved 2 loops inside the park. Having multiple loops during the course of a run is quite a normal thing to do, given the fact that any city hosting the run would have only limited space and then there are external factors like traffic etc. that prove to be a deterrent in having one long stretch as a usual route. Running on a route with multiple loops has its own share of benefits. You get to experience the track and beauty of the park more than once, you get familiar with the track and there are less chances of you facing unknown situations as the run progresses.

These benefits are surely valuable but one thing that I realized while on the course this time was a unique challenge a run with multiple loops poses to the runner. With all the hard work and enthusiasm, I managed to complete the first loop only to find out that I was right back where it all started (first point of the race). The very fact that instead of seeing the finish line, you get to a sort of start point in the middle of the run can really pull you down; almost as if giving a feeling that nothing much has been achieved despite all the running and slogging done under the scorching heat. Though this is really a false notion which our mind knows while running, it is something that our body doesn’t comply with – not seeing the landmark after completing half the race (unlike other runs, this run didn’t have markings at every km indicating how many kms had been done). This is a sort of funny situation to be in but it has happened to me even in the practice runs. The key in such situations is to make sure to pull yourself up and get on with the run as if you have just started. Every step taken thereafter gives you confidence that you are moving in the right direction.

Fast forward to our work lives and there are many situations in which we feel down and out, like the following-

- When our good efforts in a project fall short of the expectations and the commitment is not delivered.
- When a superior comes and reprimands you for a lapse. You tend to feel that your reputation is at stake and don’t really like the idea of rebuilding the same.
-  A mistake made while trying out a new idea makes you start off from the beginning.
- You are working to setup a complex Test environment and only at a very late stage you find out that a misstep in the early stage has caused you to restart the efforts.

There could be many such examples.

The above situations have two things in common-

1. All these situations are not ideal situations a professional can face. In some cases, it can even be termed as a crisis.
2. All these situations are temporary and not permanent.

The faster we get our minds to accept of the temporary nature of these activities and move on to the forward step, the quicker we can come out of the seemingly messy situation. While it is necessary to introspect about the mistakes, overly dwelling upon them takes us a step backwards without us even realizing it. It’s something akin to the feeling that I had when starting the second loop in a long run.

In his autobiography, ‘A Champion’s mind’, Pete Sampras shares his evaluation on how he was able to win so many matches over so many years. One of the relevant things he shares is-

Throughout my career, whenever I made a critical mistake, I just wiped it off the hard drive. I don’t really know how I developed that ability to move on instead of dwell upon, but I had it. My guess is that it was some mental function, rather than an emotional one – a kind of extra-high focus on success. And a lot of it was sheer will. If you train yourself not to let things get to you, they don’t.”

This assertion by Pete Sampras makes it clear that whether in work or in our personal lives – starting all over again is a skill that could be learned.

Just do it!

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