Robin Hood has a great story about a bear hunt he went on last summer. To put it briefly: after trailing a bear for some time, he got within 10 yards of it. He readied his bow, crouched to take his shot…and his knee popped. The bear fled.
Frustrating? YES. But Robin Hood says that was one of the coolest experiences of his life.
Marathon training can be like stalking a wild animal. You prepare perfectly. You have your goal in sight. You have that sense, that little quiet certainty, that things are going your way. And then something pops. Maybe it’s not a knee; maybe it’s suddenly horrid weather, or sickness, or — shudder — a race cancellation. Or maybe it is an injury.
Training doesn’t always go according to plan. Actually, in my experience, it rarely goes according to plan. But we’re talking about multiple months of your life here. Is it really worth spending that much of your time fretting over every little hiccup along the way?
I’m not saying it doesn’t stink when obstacles pop up — when it seems that your goal, like Robin Hood’s bear, has skedaddled. It does stink, and it happens to all of us. But all that it means is that we need to adjust our perspective. Instead of just focusing on the end goal, it’s beneficial to occasionally direct our gaze to the process leading up to the goal. The whole “life’s a journey, not a destination” idea has become a cliche, but that’s because it’s true.
How do we pull off that occasional focus readjustment? And I say “occasional” because goals are, in fact, good to have. They’re usually the whole reason we’re training in the first place, right? I think it makes sense to start the way we start most things: small. When we’re cramming that training run in after work and we’re frustrated with the lack of daylight, we can take a moment to appreciate the sunset. When we’re stocking up on oh-so-appetizing energy gels, we can take the opportunity to try new flavors. If, during these winter months, we get a break in the weather, we can savor every second of it. And if we have a truly sensational training run, especially one that surprises us (maybe we were tired or cranky or just plain busy beforehand), we can celebrate it! We can treat ourselves to an indulgent meal, or buy a pair of those fancy-shmancy socks we’ve been eying!
Just as walking quietly on a hunt gets easier with practice, so does appreciating the process of a training cycle. And the cool part is, as we get more in-tune with the process, we get more in tune with everything — namely, ourselves. And getting more in-tune with ourselves means…well, I’m no scientist, but I’d guess that means we become better at training. Which means a better likelihood of attaining that goal. Hooray!
Anything can happen during training. Maybe, at some point, your goal will imitate that bear and slip away. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy every bit of the stalk. Because there’s an excellent chance that your goal isn’t gone for good; it’s just gone into hiding. And if you just relax and give it a minute, it will poke its head right back out at you.