Run Your Race
At the beginning of this year, I purposed in my heart that I would become a medal hunter. Actually this is something I said to myself towards the end of last year. My first medal hunting experience was in February this year, on the eve of my 45th birthday. That day was a first for me in many ways; It was the first time to participate in a marathon as a runner, though it was just 10Kms; it was the first time to take on the Goba Hills; It was the first time I ever got into my car without showering, all sweaty and dirty; And it was the first time to ever get a medal!
On Monday 15th June 2020, four and a half months after the first medal, I took on another challenge - the [Virtual] Heart Marathon. This time though, I went for the 21Kms challenge. The difference between this particular marathon and the traditional marathons is that with this one, there is no crowd, plus you choose the time and the place for the “event”. I would have done it on Sunday but due to some unavoidable circumstances I didn’t. So I decided Monday would be a good day to do it.
Among the reasons I chose Monday is because I have learned that in anything you want to accomplish, never miss a Monday! If it is going to the gym, never miss your Monday workout. If it is writing a book, never miss out your Monday writing session. If it is jogging, never miss out your Monday jogging session. If you can start the week with some few wins under your belt, you set the pace for motivation for the rest of the week.
Going back to my run, before I left home I was really worried and wasn’t sure I’d make it. The picture on the left is evidence of the worry on my face as I wondered whether I would accomplish my mission.
I was about to go run while having a mild headache and I was worried it might develop into a full blown migraine while on the road. All the same, I decided to ignore it and just hit the road.
One thing I was determined to do as soon as I started the run was not give up on the way. Even if it meant walking all the way I would but I wasn't going to give up on this challenge.
My friend, that was easier said than done!
At the 9km mark I almost gave up because of a side stitch, but then I realized that if I went back home at that point, that would be 18Kms done already, meaning I would have had only 3Kms to hit my target. I figured it would be a waste of 18Kms so I decided to keep pushing.
At the 19Kms mark I started feeling faint and had to hold my ankles until that feeling left me. I wasted some few minutes there but I needed to if I was going to finish the run. After a while I was able to proceed with the run until I hit the 21Kms mark.
It took me 3 hours and 5 minutes to clear the 21Kms. This was a first for me because the furthest I had ever gone prior to the 21Km was 13.82Kms.
How easy was it to do this thing? My friend, it wasn’t! My feet are still sore and my left knee hurts but all that is nothing compared to the sense of achievement I felt after I finished the run. Oh, and I forgot to mention that as soon as I hit my target, I got a muscle cramp on my left foot that made it quite hard to walk!
As I was running many lessons came to my mind. I'll share just a few of those lessons here, but the rest you can listen to an episode on my Podcast called “Finish Your Race.” In this episode, I have really poured out my heart. Click here to access it.
I have said many times that life is a journey with many variables along the road. As you would expect when traveling by road, you will see mile-markers, bumps, potholes, stray dogs, other road users including pedestrians, motor cyclists, other drivers and of course not forgetting traffic cops. And if you are in Dar Es Salaam, it is not unusual to find some very healthy goats grazing by the roadside. The most interesting thing about these goats is that they have the sense of crossing the road at zebra crossings! True story. I once witnessed this and was very amused because about 20 meters from the zebra crossing, a group of humans was crossing the road and literally dodging cars! I couldn't help but wonder between the two groups who was smarter. Anyway, that's a story for another day.
Back to my story....
Life in itself is like a marathon held in the city, or a journey by road. There are times when you will have to slow down because of traffic jam, while other times you might be forced to use an alternative route to your destination because the road you took is under repair. Sometimes you might be forced to move at a slow pace because of potholes on the road and other times because of a series of bumps along the way, if not a herd of goats wanting to cross over to the other side of the road. However, as long as you know where you are going none of that bothers you because whatever happens, your ultimate goal is to get to your destination. Your route may change, the time taken may vary, even the passengers in the car with you may change, but your destination will remain constant.
So, what does this have to do with my experience while running the 21Kms? Here below are six lessons:
- Your race is your own - Everyone of us is running a "virtual race" where we choose when we want to run, whether we want to run alone or with company, what time the run will take place, the pace you choose to run with, and of course the distance you want to cover. The race I am referring to in this case is your goals, your purpose or your destiny. The problem is, instead of focusing on their own race, many people want to run other people's races, using other people's paces, forgetting that someone might be running fast because they only have 5Kms to cover, while your race might be the 42Kms race! The strategy to run a 5Km distance is very different from the one you use for a 42Kms distance. Which brings me to the second lesson....
- Your performance is dependent on your level of preparedness - Do you know why I almost gave up at the 9Km mark? Because the furthest I had ever run consistently without a break was up to 8Kms. After that I'd walk for half a kilometer then run for another two and a half kilometers, then walk again. My point is, I had not built enough strength and endurance prior to embarking on the 21Km challenge. Isn't this reflective of life itself! The reason most people fail to reach their goals is because of unpreparedness. Someone starts a business without having or defining all the important facts. You start a fitness regimen without knowing what or who it will take to achieve your goals. You engage yourself in a relationship without weighing the cost or consequences. My point is, to jumpstart your success in anything you want to do, you have to be prepared for it physically, mentally, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually and financially. One of this fine days I will delve deeper into this lesson but for now, let me leave it at that.
- Running your race will be lonely sometimes - I was alone throughout that 21Kms run. Of course I met other people jogging but none of them were on the race I was on. Though we were sharing the same road, each one of us had a different goal and a different destination. I think running alone made the race all the more harder. To make it even worse, it was getting darker by the second and so I had to push myself to beat the darkness so that by the time it got completely dark, I would be in a place that was less dangerous in terms of muggings. In your quest to go after your dream or follow your destiny there will be moments of great loneliness. Yes though there might be 200 of you who write and do public speaking, you have been given your own specific way of doing things and in following that specific path, sometimes it will get lonely and dark. When that happens, those are the times you will need to remind yourself why you are doing what you are doing. This is where your WHY needs to be stronger and more powerful than your objections or excuses to give up. Which leads me to the next point......
- Rest if you must but don't give up - Trust me there are times when I almost gave up, the worst part being at the 19Kms mark. I felt nauseated, I felt faint and my legs felt like I was wearing lead boots. I looked around where I was and couldn't find anywhere to sit or lean on, so what I did, I pretended I was lacing my shoes but the truth was that I was looking for a way to rest my back as I stretched my calf muscles which were in pain. Eventually, after a few minutes of maintaining that bent-over pose I felt better and was able to continue running. There are times you will feel like giving up, times when you feel you don't have any more strength left in you. This is very normal, and every successful person can attest to this. They will tell you that there are times when they almost gave up but every time that happened they kept trying one more time until they finally got a breakthrough. Rest if you must, but never give up or quit on your dream!
- You are in the race to finish - At some point the bluetooth headphones I was using died on me and so I was left without any music to keep me company. At that point I had to keep myself motivated to keep putting one foot in front of the other without breaking my stride. Unfortunately this is around the time I got to the 19Kms mark. You can imagine how boring the run was without music to keep me going. And that is when I started speaking to myself audibly. I really didn't care what the people on the street were thinking about me. All I cared about was what I was telling myself. I kept repeating the words, "You can do this Liz. Remember you never ever leave your stuff unfinished. Think of how good you'll feel when you finish this race......." I kept motivating myself through positive self-talk until I finally hit my target. There are times when you will feel like giving up for sure. That is when you need to speak to yourself intentionally without caring who will be seeing you or listening to you. It could be in your bedroom as you are preparing yourself to go to work. Or in your car as you step out into the parking lot before you get into that meeting you might be dreading. What you say to yourself can be the lifeline you needed to boost yourself to finish what you started. Remember, you are not competing with anyone as you go after your dream or goals. Your focus should be on achieving your goals and with that, your reward will come.
- Your character is under scrutiny - I will be honest and say my character was put to test on this day. There are some self-defeating thoughts that started appearing in my mind which I am glad I never entertained. For instance, when I felt faint, an evil voice whispered to me, "now that you are feeling faint, why not take boda-boda and just go home? Who wouldn't understand that you are not feeling ok right now? That is not giving up, that is being "smart" and taking care of yourself first. Afterall, who will know whether or not you finished the race?..." Wow! What?? Of course I will know I never finished the race and I will forever feel guilty for lying that I did when I know I didn't! When going after your dreams, many situations will present themselves guised as genuine opportunities, but in the real sense they will be nails waiting to poke your character. You know what they say; you can lie to everyone else but you can never lie to yourself. You will always know how you climbed that professional ladder - was it through genuine certificates or were they STCs i.e. sextually transmitted certificates? How did you get that man to marry you, by tricking him into impregnating you? How about that woman, did you pretend to be a Christian in order to get her because you knew she wouldn't accept you otherwise? How about that huge tender you have been bragging about, did you get it genuinely or did you get it by paying some heavy kickbacks to some procurement dude in that organization? My point is, when you want something really badly, your character will be tested. Like someone said, "Character is what you do when nobody is watching you". Remember, the truth of your character is always expressed in your daily actions. Be a man or woman of character in everything that you do.
- Only you can run your race for you - remember earlier I said each one of us has their own race? I think it is important to say that only you can run your race and finish it for yourself! Never expect anyone else to run your race for you. In other words, see that vision, dream, goal, purpose or destiny you have been pursuing? Only you will make it happen. You can seek advice or gather ideas from other people but in the end, it will be your sole responsibility to make it happen. Remember, the race you are on has your identity attached to it. It was made and created for you and you only, so nobody else can handle it for you.
In conclusion let me say this: nothing great will ever come easily. It will take courage to do the impossible, determination to keep you going especially when you feel you have no more strength left in you, persistence to keep pushing yourself when it gets to a point you feel like you can't do it any more, deadly focus to keep your eyes on your ultimate goal and most importantly, believing that you can pull it off!
Self-belief played a huge role in my finishing my race. You know what they say, "if there is no enemy within, the enemy without can do you no harm". The moment I silenced that inner voice that kept telling me to give up, I got the strength to keep going until I finished my race.
What race are you running today? I hope my experience above will inspire you to not give up on your race. Keep going even when you think you can't. Everything you need to win this race is inside of you. You just need to activate your passion, persistence, determination and discipline, but above all, believe you can and you will.
Remember, your race is your own. Own it. Run it. Finish it.
Be ignited. Be inspired. Be influenced to become the best version of yourself you can ever be.