Is it possible that I am finally understanding this concept? The more time that passes in my life as a runner, the more I can see the big picture, and the big picture means the patterns and history of the last six years plus the possibilities that are out in front of me. And then, of course, there's right now.
I've never been very good at right now. I'm great at looking behind me and analyzing what was to shreds. And nothing makes me happier than a cup of coffee and a notebook and pen to list out my future--future goals, future projects, future hopes, future things to save for, future meal ideas, future races, future dreams. I can make a list out of anything, and the more pens and colors and post it notes and wall space in which to plot my grand scheme the better. But today often gets lost in the mix. Past todays and future todays get reflected on and planned for, but I think I'm often missing the actual event. And the real work of it happens in the today.
It's pretty simple really--reflecting and planning require thinking, and I like that part. They are important and necessary for sure, but they have a passive nature. Reflecting and planning make me feel like I've accomplished the whole task when instead it's only part of it. The action happens in today, in small increments. If I plan to sit down and write every morning at 5:30am the staggering long term results will only come from stringing together a bunch of 5:30ams--a bunch of todays where I sit down and write. If I need to improve my hip flexibility for running and I research how to do that and decide to set aside 7-8am Tuesday and Saturday to work on that, I can have staggering long term results if I string together weeks of hip mobility exercises that I show up for on Tuesdays and Fridays. Reflection and planning are vital, but they are in support of the doing, and I've been making them the main attraction.
My next big challenge is running a road marathon, and by running it I mean running it, not just getting through it and crossing the finish line. I've been up against my mind when it comes to running long distances in one shot, and I don't know why. My coach has tried to program these long runs six ways to Sunday but I'm pretty smart--or, should I say, I've got a part of my mind that can outsmart us both. So here's the new strategy: small daily improvements in the pursuit of staggering long-term results. I am going to go out and run for 15 minutes, come hell or high water. Then I'm going to give myself a high five, rest until I'm ready, and do it again. The next time I go for an easy or long run I am going to run for 16 minutes, come hell or high water, then I'm going to give myself a high five, rest until I'm ready, and do it again. And so on, and so on. I don't know that I can outsmart that trickster or resistance in me, but I do think I can outlast it, little by little, over time, until I run myself into a marathon.
When I look back at who I was six years ago I can see that my whole life transformation is the result of this work, these small daily improvements. It started with an email. Then an appointment date. Then an hour meeting in the gym. Then a workout. Then a workout. Then a workout. Then a workout. When I look at my six year accomplishments en masse it is truly staggering to me. Reflection, plan, action. Daily improvements, long-term staggering results. It's not flashy, it's not sexy, and it's not magic. It's a simple, successful formula for life. And I think I'm finally bought in.