The buzz of the alarm jolted me to life at 4:30 a.m. Barely awake and aching from the previous day’s workout, I debated with myself to roll over and go back to sleep, or get out of bed to meet my friends at the running track.
Against my body’s wishes, I shoved off the warm blankets, got out of bed and walked toward the bathroom. I splashed cold water on my face, looked into the mirror, and asked myself what the heck I was doing. This was the kind of morning where the will to succeed outweighed the desire to give in.
Along with two other friends, I was following a training plan for an upcoming 10-mile race and that day’s workout called for mile repeats. A mile was four laps around the track and the goal was to run a mile at top speed, take a minute to recover, and then do it again. On the first lap of mile 4, I noticed on one side of the track was the full moon and the other side was the rising sun and in between were magnificent stars. It was a spectacular feeling of smallness that momentarily distracted me from my effort and made the other three laps zip past. When we finished our run, we cooled down, stretched and went our separate ways.
We would meet four or five times a week to vary our distance and speed and keep each other on course. More than once I gave thanks for the team waiting at the Y; and begrudgingly became accustomed to the 4:30 alarm. I wasn’t always pleasant and admit to cussing them out when they suggested we get up at 4:15 to run long before work. That was the day I discovered my threshold. With the encouragement of my partners, though, I pushed through and later felt gratification for mustering the strength.
Our runs weren’t just about running. We spent hours together and crazy as it might sound, it became my Prozac. We honored each other with the promise that what was said on the run, stayed on the run. We vented about work and mourned painful loss. We shared stories about mutual friends and chatted about weather, moon phases and shooting stars. We shared stories of our kids and observations of the insanity we call humanity. But mostly we celebrated each other’s success, regardless of how large or small.
It was during those runs when I felt most alive. I felt I had purpose and control over one area of my life.
We trained for several months and never missed a scheduled run. We tapered our distances, rested and felt confident for our big day. We traveled as a team to the race and joined others who were running for the cause. The temperatures that morning were cool enough for long sleeves at lineup, but warm enough for short sleeves after mile one. It was overcast, but clearing, and I was feeling well prepared to meet my goal. I had hydrated and slept well and had my favorite pre-race meal the night before. I was shoulder to shoulder with 2500 women who were all pushing beyond from where they had come. The national anthem brought tears to my eyes and life in that moment, was perfect and complete.
The horn sounded and the sea of runners moved across the timing mats in waves. For the first mile, I weaved through the crowd, hoping to clear a path. Miles 2 and 3 went by in a blur and I started to get in my groove. Somewhere between miles 5 and 6 I realized that I was off my pace and my heart began to sink. I continued forward and at mile 8, forsaking modern day miracles, I knew I wouldn’t make my goal.
Every finish line has its story and it is powerful every time. More often than not, the finish line represents victory, but on that day, it represented defeat. I replayed each mile, wondering where I had gone wrong, and with each reiteration I cursed myself more. I had no good reason and it didn’t add up. I had nothing and nobody to blame but the day. I felt disillusioned and wondered why I tried.
The finish line haunted me and the miniscule five minutes defined who I was. I had lost my perspective and was focused on the result. My energy had gone into my training; something I thought I could control. As it turns out, I have no control at all.
I’ve come to realize that Powerful Perspectives are not about control; they’re about letting go. And not just finish times, regret, sorrow or loss. It’s about experiencing and embracing what’s in front of us that matters the most. Yes, goals are important and they help us define success, but the power is in the journey, not the finish line at all.