The Perception of Success

After I finished my twelve mile run on Saturday, I stood in the parking lot listening to my two friends share their stories about training for spring races, and I thought to myself I am so glad I’m not training right now. After a few minutes of stretching and more chatting, I head back out to run some more. I wanted to entertain my friends and teammates as they finished their own long runs. The more I ran with them, the more I thought to myself how happy I was to not be training.

Then it hit me. I am training. I may have laughed out loud when I realized how absurd my “not training”  thoughts were all morning.

My goal race for the season is 8 weeks away.

Last week I ran 28.4 miles, I went to the gym once, and my husband was out of town.

For every workout I complete, I use my favorite colored pens to write in my results on my training plan.

I send an update email to my coach every Monday. We talk about goals and dreams all the time.

I’m doing speed workouts, tempo runs, strength training, and long runs.

I most certainly am training, but as I listened to my friends discuss their own training, I felt relief because I don’t feel like I am.

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On Tuesday, my Facebook notifications didn’t stop. Awarded the crown of the weekly Lucky Leprechaun for our training team, I was being showered with love from my teammates. Stories of friendship, miles, and teamwork filled my heart to the brim. I was on cloud 9 as I headed out after work to complete my speed workout.

10×800 in my new favorite run spot: the Elizabeth River Trail.

Right away I could feel that my legs didn’t have much to give. The night before I had maxed out on weight in back squats. My glutes and legs were reminding me that they had already worked hard, but I was on cloud 9. I had a team who believed in me. I was going to run fast and hard. By the third interval things weren’t loosing up. They were getting tighter. My body was starting to fight back.

I started to do math. If I completed the whole workout, I’d see another increase in my weekly mileage. If I cut it short, where could I make up the miles?

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Pause. Process. Proceed. A nice remind along the Elizabeth River Trail

My hips fought back more and more. This is when I stopped. I kicked my ego to the curb, and I cut my workout in half.

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Last Saturday I ran nearly 18 miles. It wasn’t forced. It was enjoyable. I never felt like I was training.

On Tuesday my team showered me with love and not a single one of them mentioned how fast or slow (depending on your perception) I can run, my PRs, or weekly mileage. No one gave me a high five because I ran ever mile on my training plan. They celebrate my spirit and the spirit of running.

For a long time I chased the race clock. I counted every step of every mile. It worked for a while.

I’m a believer that there are seasons for everything in every aspect of life. I needed that season of race clock chasing as much as I need this season of “not training”, but eventually my season of chasing the race clock came to a dead end. I lost the joy of PRs (or lack there of). I lost my motivation to wake up before dawn to run. Chasing the race clock no longer motivated me.

Success in running has always brought me joy. But when the success was no longer tangible in the form of a PR or a time on I race clock, I began to floundered. Could I run just to enjoy running? How would I stay engaged if I wasn’t chasing a time goal?

The answer has become a simple one. I run to pay it forward. Running and the community and friendships I’ve been given as a result of all my training has become my form of personal records.

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My goals for this year has nothing to do with race times or any forms of measureable growth. My goal for this year is to wake up. It started as a simple action. I wanted to wake up every morning ready to conquer the day whether that meant a 4am wake up to run repeats before work or to wake up and head into work excited about a new project. It quickly became so much more than a simple action. It brought awareness to how I live. It became an awakening.

As seasons change, our definition and perception of the world must change with it. I love chasing success. Until recently it came in the form of measurable goals. The word success is so often attached to attaining something. But what if success isn’t a destination? What if success isn’t a check in the box? Instead what if success is about creating an invisible ripple in the world that elevates everyone it touches.

This new perception of success is how I know I’m at my personal best. This is the direction I am heading. This is where my running shoes are taking me. 

It’s only February. And I feel like my eyes are wide open!

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