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What you can learn from any big challenge

I have set myself up for a major challenge. My goal is to run a half marathon (21 km) end of November. Why am I doing this? It is for a good cause – supporting the great work of Central Coast Kids in Need.

Fortunately, in our endeavour we enjoy the guidance of professional trainers who have set up this project – Run 4 Kids. I am not a runner, actually more of a walker/runner and preferably on the beach. After 4 weeks in training, and my first 10 km run, I am confident that there is a runner in me.

I also came to the realisation that the steps I need to make to be successful, are similar to any situation where I want to make a change. Here are few lessons I want to share with you.

Focus on the small steps
At times I get overwhelmed by the thought of running 21 km. This whole idea gives me shivers and I start to doubt myself. What I have learned during the training is to remove myself from that point of view. All I focus on is making small steps to slowly build up my skill, fitness level and stamina. I trust that this will get me over the finish line.

When you face a change that is overwhelming it is best to focus on small actions you can do on a regular basis. This will make it easier during the times when a challenge seems too big to handle. Meanwhile you are already doing great work towards that change that you want in your life.

Practice patience
When we train with the group, I feel the tendency to run as fast as the more experienced runners. However when I do this, I quickly burn out and have to stop. Now, I understand, sometimes it is better to hold back, to be patient, and learn what I am capable of doing right now.

Comparing yourself to others can at times be a big roadblock to reach a goal. Hold yourself back, reflect, assess your current capabilities and how you can make improvements that fit for you.

Create a habit
One of the goals of training is to teach my muscles what pace I am comfortable with running for a long time. This needs to be ingrained in the muscles memory. And we do that by regularly giving them an appropriate workout. Feeding this muscle memory can be very important during the race when my nerves and others try to throw me off my course.

Anyone can create a habit by doing. By taking small actions on a regular basis. All you need to know is what kind of habit helps you reach your goal. Habits can be wonderful. Learning a new habit is a way of changing your point of view or perception of an issue. They also free you up so that you can focus on matters that need your attention.

Learn to observe your body and mind
During my first 10 km run, I hit a wall – mentally – several times. I just wanted to stop. I was too slow anyway, and how did I think I could make it? Over the years I have integrated mindfulness in my life and I found out that this helped me get on top.

So, this is what I did every time I saw this mental wall coming towards me:
- Body scan: Several times I was scanning my body from head to toe. When I found any tense muscle I would breathe into it and try to relax it.
- Observing my pace and breath: I was asking myself if I was comfortable with the pace, how my legs where doing and if I needed to change anything. Then I followed my breath to understand whether I was breathing deep enough, to feed the muscles with oxygen.

With these two simple exercises I made sure that I not only relaxed my body, but to focus on the now. I distracted myself from the voices of defeat.

Do this on a daily basis. Five times a day, ask yourself if you are here or somewhere else with your mind. Then take 10 breaths and just follow their flow, become curious about it. That is all you need to do. As the saying goes: When you walk, you walk. When you run, you run.

21 km is a very long run, and a big challenge for me. It will not be easy, the training is hard. However, I trust it will be the small steps that will get me across the finish line.

You might also want to read:
The power of small steps
Wherever you go there you are


If you want to know more about this challenge or you want to help me raise money for families with seriously ill children, go to myrun4kidschallenge.

Image: Nina Matthews Photography

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One Response to “What you can learn from any big challenge”

  1. wayne Says:

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