You can do hard things!

Today marks a huge mile-stone for me!! On January 1st of this year, I set a personal goal to run at least 1,000 miles in 2016. (That averages out to a little more than a 5k race, every single day). I didn’t tell anyone about the goal (other than a setting in the mobile app that I run with, and I mentioned it to Melanie a few weeks ago).  Well, today, I crossed the finish line!!!!!!

I took this photo back in May during a 13-mile run. (I try to do them every weekend). It was pouring rain. I was drenched from head to toe, and nobody would have faulted me for quitting that day. Instead, a few miles in, I learned that I actually quite like running in the rain (something I never would have guessed!!). I was having a blast!

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I injured myself in July (bad shoes, long story). I actually wondered if I would ever run again. It knocked me out completely for 2 full months where I couldn’t run at all. I filled the gap with biking instead, but figured the goal of 1,000 miles in 2016 wasn’t going to happen. I was okay with it, but I really missed running. Slowly and carefully, I was able to gently re-introduce running after about 6 weeks, and a few weeks later, I was back to ‘normal’. I’m still not as fast as I was, but my endurance is better than ever! And all the while during recovery that goal was still in the back of my mind. Could I still do it?

I learned a few things about myself through this journey.

First, it’s been about a year and a half since I reached my goal weight, after losing 100lbs. So the running was really for me, not for weight loss. I discovered that food (for me) is a serious addiction — and that I can replace that addiction with other, healthier things. For me, running ended up being the perfect alternative. Why? Because I introduced something that I loved doing that was completely incompatible with my addiction. Running forces me (every day) to make a choice: I can eat junk, or I can run. I’ve learned the hard way that the two are mutually exclusive.

I learned that when you really want something, finding excuses is easy.

In fact, finding excuses that other people will agree with is even easier. A legitimate way out is always there, if you want to take it. Nobody would have faulted me for not running on the day it was pouring rain. Nobody would have faulted me if I had given up running altogether after my injury in July. Nobody would fault me for not running in cold weather. Nobody would fault me for not running in hot weather. Frankly, and maybe even more importantly — nobody would have cared one way or another what I did. But I didn’t do this to impress anyone, I did it for me, and me alone. So the only person I was accountable to was myself!

The most important lesson I learned is that the commitments we make to ourselves matter. A lot. They are what defines and shapes us as humans. Anybody can keep a commitment they make when someone else is involved. But making a commitment to yourself — especially one you haven’t even told anyone about — is hard. Really hard. And it’s what separates the strong from the weak.

People who think they can’t do hard things, I find, fail because they rely on motivation to carry them across the finish line.  Motivation, unfortunately, doesn’t last for more than a few days into a long journey. Discipline must, at a certain point, take its place.   I liken it to the road trip that looks so great on paper, but a few hours in, and you’re bored and ready to call it quits (the motivation is gone!). The only thing that carries you to the end is the discipline to keep driving… Because… well because you said you would!

While I don’t view this accomplishment as significant as losing 100lbs — I would put it right up there with some of the hardest things I’ve done. And, who knows, maybe it’ll add a year or two to my life!  But this lesson only reiterates one very important thing I’ve learned about myself during my fitness journey:  I CAN DO HARD THINGS!