“Did you make any new year’s resolutions?”
The question is ubiquitous in the first days of January. And when you’re a runner, it takes on the inevitable twist: “What are your running goals this year?”
On Jan. 1, I set a challenging goal of achieving a particular time in a particular race. My apologies for being vague, but I hesitate to reveal more just yet. It’s early days, after all, and once I announce it in the newspaper, the stakes go up. I wonder how elite runners handle the pressure when everyone knows their racing schedule and goal times.
The same day, in my first workout after setting this stretch goal, a foot cramp stopped me after 4 miles.
“There goes that,” I thought. “Plantar fasciitis. I’m out.” My brain quickly spun over to the dark side. “I can’t train hard enough to get there — one tough workout in and I’m already broken.” On and on, in a spiral of worry, insecurity and anxiety. I began thinking of abandoning the training cycle. “I’ll go after it next year,” I told myself.
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The thing is, New Year’s Day is not the only day all year when we can start chasing a goal. Every day is an opportunity, no matter what the calendar says. For inspiration, look to nature: the soft light of dawn each morning, that sliver of new moon hanging low in the western sky, the turning seasons. Reminders that it’s always possible to begin again are everywhere.
I think the key to successfully achieving a running goal (or any goal) is giving ourselves permission to keep starting over. In running, there are going to be challenges: bad weather, aches and pains, the intrusions of life (what do you mean, I have to work eight hours today? I’m an athlete in training!). When you miss a workout, promise yourself not to miss the next one. When something hurts, take care of it and get back out there. When life intervenes, do what’s necessary, then lace up your running shoes.
“What you can do, or dream you can, begin it/Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” That’s from a translation of von Goethe’s “Faust” by poet John Anster. To which I would add, begin it as often as needed, until you achieve that dream.
If your 2020 running goal seems to have fallen under the wheels already — take heart. What do you think you can do, as a runner? What do you dream of achieving on the roads and trails this year? Today’s as good a day as any to start … or start again.