Endurance running, in particular, is a great metaphor for life. Because, let’s face it, life is an endurance event. And the quality of your performance directly correlates to the quality of your life.
I am not a super athlete running 50 or 100 mile endurance runs. I have yet to even run 30 miles.
Six miles is my average every time I hit the trails.
One particular run last week turned into a major body-brain struggle. The trail began on the west side jetty of Hueneme beach, three miles across sand, to the east end fence that ends Hueneme and begins the Point Magu Military Base, then back again. While my body’s attitude was one of vitality and vigor, my brains disposition was one of resistance
Enjoying the stormy winds bowing, massive clouds changing shape over the ocean, and the relative quietness that comes with getting far enough away from the easily accessible places, a relative ease washed over my mind at first. The body I carried through space (or does the body carry me?) felt strong and able.
“I’m gonna touch that fence today!” I told myself.
Even though I kept running, the fence barely in distant sight, progress toward my goal appeared crushingly minimal. Frustration and annoyance arose as the running continued with my goal appearing non closer than when I began.
A decision had to be made. Give in to the voice that wanted so desperately to give up and stop, or push through and fight that nay-sayer brain back. I choose the later, so instead of discouraging me I was going to make that negative energy fuel to my fire. All that needed was a good mental strategy.
Baby steps to the big kahuna; instead of looking at the far away distant goal, I started picking out smaller closer objects to run to. A log twenty feet away in my trajectory, an abandoned and deflated rubber ball a ways up on the right, a shrubby plant coming up on the left.
Before I knew it, when I would glance up for a moment, that fence was getting closer, if only just a little.
I continued running toward those closer, small goals, until finally my next small goal was the fence.
I looked at the fisherman standing on the shore, took in a deep breath, smiled and laughed out loud. Then, turned around and ran back.
The way back was not so difficult. A path once traveled is easy to turn around and travel back home on. Having walked the twists and turns before, you know the land marks, and there is a certain sense of comfort retiring to familiar. There is less mental effort required, usually.
What makes venturing out into new spaces and goals seem like it takes forever is having to discover the path as it goes. And when looking into the future that big goal you dream for your life to be like seems so far.
For me, some those big goals are, “How am I going to pay for that Toyota Tacoma I’ve been dreaming about for years? When am I going to set off on being a dirt bag, vagabond climber living out of my truck with my dog, having gear and confidence to climb whatever I please? What kind of work am I capable of doing that is satisfying while also being financially stable?” In general, there is this big holistic picture of who I dream of being. It’s more than just these physical feats and financial worries. Bit by bit I see myself getting there, though it it not over night or in the blink of an eye.
That is why endurance running is a metaphor for life.
Those huge life goals are too big to reach right away, even trying with most the most might possible, big goals can seen they seem hardly closer.
But if you look back at how far you’ve come, all those small steps accumulating, there is a great distance that has been traveled.
Those small goals along the way, littering the path to the big kahuna, are making reaching that ultimate place possible. Keeping a eye set to the tangible goals can save one from becoming overwhelmed and giving up. Accomplishing smaller tasks can help you sleep at night since you know you are making progress toward that big dream picture.
Move through with calm and grace, eventually you will get to where you are going.