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Key life lessons from a Long distance run - Part 2

5th Airtel Delhi Half Marathon

This article is a follow up to another article I wrote on the same topic. For close to around 6 years now, I have quite actively taken up running. The prime reason that attracted me towards running was experiencing the magical feeling of reaching the finish line after persevering for a long distance run.

Having participated in more than 25 long distance runs over these years, I have gained lot more than just the physical fitness from these endeavours. Some more of my learnings below-

Key to success lies in staying in the present

Our mind’s ways are never static and even the well trained Long distance runners often face this dilemma i.e. while on the run, the mind tend to always think ahead. The picture of the runner reaching the finish line starts framing up and all this makes the runner believe that he/she has already achieved the goal whereas the runner would not have even reached the half way mark. Or it may even happen that mind takes you back to thinking about the ease and freshness at the start of a run. These are the biggest distractions for a runner and has a potential to distract the runner from reaching the finishing line. What is important in the given context is to think only about the next step and not worry about the finish line because if the next step is taken in the right direction in a right way, you are going to reach the finish line sooner or later. So, the key lies in training your mind to stay in the present and be there only.

If you fall down, that’s not the end of the race – there is always a better option to get up and run

It happened in the most recent long distance run I took part in. It can happen in any long distance run that gets organized. People stop either because of minor accidents or because they suffer from cramps or they get tired or any other reason. Whatever may be the reason, falling down is the part of the game. It’s not an ideal world that we live in, things usually do not always go as we plan or as intended and failures are a part of life. The idea here is to treat failures as minor speed bumps that slow you down but not knock you off completely. Failures should be treated as learning opportunities and not the reasons to drift away from your goals. Any one who faces failure ideally has 2 choices – quit or continue. The ones who have strong conviction in their goals never quit. Failing faster holds the key. Remember – If you fall down, that’s not the end of the race – there is always a better option to get up and run.

Cheering your peers gives you momentum

Long distance running usually constitutes of people from different backgrounds, age groups, gender etc. There can be a 70-year-old or a 14-year-old boy or a 25-year-old female running alongside you. The diversity of participation makes the run even more wonderful. It happened in my recent run also. The fun lies in treating the running participants as your peers and continually cheering and encouraging them. In the entire run, there will be many phases where you face difficulties and the thought of giving up starts to play around. If in this situation, your fellow runner comes, pats your back and says “Good job”, it just helps one defeat the negative emotions and just helps you regain your momentum. In real life also, professionally there are tough situations which may pull you down mentally and when someone acknowledges your efforts, it does gives you a great sense of assurance to move forward. This act just spreads positive energy.

Russia's gold medalist Yuliya Zaripova (

When your body says “Give up”- Just don’t give up. When a random thought in your mind says “You can’t do it”, Just laugh it off.

The start of every run is always full of energy and optimism. The initial moments of a long distance run pass on with ease as the legs and mind are fresh and usually (if it starts early in morning) the weather is favourable. It’s only after one has travelled a few kilometers, especially near the half-way point that the mind start playing games. It is often surrounded with casual thoughts that tend to discourage the runner from competing further. It is at this time the body starts getting tired as well and tends to listen more to easy thoughts that prevent you from completing the run. The key here lies in being mentally strong and laughing off the negative energies and persevering till you reach the end. Infact, in my experience, one cannot reach the finish line carrying negative, confused thoughts.

Similarly, in the professional world, there are often the difficult projects/situations that bring an individual out of his/her comfort zone. There is always a time in these projects/situations when one starts doubting his/her abilities. The key here like in a marathon is to believe in yourself and shun all the negative thoughts and keep moving forward. Just remember- “When your body says “Give up”- Just don’t give up. When a random thought in your mind says “You cant do it”, Just laugh it off.”

Every small step towards the goal counts

The key principle in running a long distance run is that each and every single step adds up in you completing the run successfully. Long distance runs cannot be completed in one step. Likewise in professional life, each project decomposes in to various steps that need to done right to attain success. One cannot achieve the end goal without performing the smaller goals to perfection. Irrespective of conditions, always put your best foot forward.

Taking a break and rethinking your strategy helps more than you expect

Well organized Long distance running events have the break points where in the participants can take very short water and energy breaks to refresh the participants. The refreshment time is very vital for the participants to successfully complete the run. This not only gives the opportunity to the participants to hydrate themselves but also rethink their strategy to complete the remaining part (thinking about speed, moving with long steps or short steps etc.). Without these breaks, it would really be hard to complete the run.

Similar analogy in our professional lives – Generally people who work very hard to attain their and the organization’s objectives forget about the importance of taking sufficient breaks and this leaves them at a risk of a burnout, leading to shortage of problem solving ideas. This situation neither helps them nor their organizations. The key here lies in realizing that you are getting in a rut and need to slow down. The focus and overall output after a well thought out break is far enriched.

I think being out of your comfort zone helps one learn quite a bit and the above write-up is a result of many such running experiences. Do share what you think and share your experiences!

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