When I was studying for exams, I used to make lists. I believed at the time if I wrote a list of work to do, and crossed off the work as it had been completed, I would get through enough study time to actually pass.
With the perfect vision of hindsight there are two components of list-making that revealed themselves to me slowly but surely after a few decades since I left school.
1. Writing lists is a waste of time.
Like literally, the time that it takes writing a list could be better well spent.
2. Lists are impossible to stick to in real life.
Yet here I am, in the very first stage of my training program to get fit and to run races, including the Wings For Life World Run, and I find myself ticking off distances on a very long list stuck to my wall. I have actually stuck to it thus far, mainly due to the fact that the early weeks in a schedule have runs that rarely exceed 5km. It’s easy enough because a 5km run can be walked and run, and it’s still not too much time away from real life and real responsibilities.
Reading between the lines, you’ll figure out that I’ve been doing a lot of walking.
Then there was the first acid test. My list had a 10km run on it. Just enough to be a fitness worry, and long enough to make a walk not an option. I had a child’s birthday party on the same day, a nanny for the day, and a number of weekend chores that needed to be attended to in fair urgency. It was going to have to be a trot. (Read about that in the next installment)
Anyway, failing this, I put my carefully ordered training program ‘list’ in jeopardy, and I start adding up and realising all the time I have wasted.
The 5 km runs have not been easy thus far, after my year-and-half off the program. I think it might just be a bit too long, and my muscles have long forgotten that they have memory.
Either way, there are only two things that are needed when starting on a running program, whatever the goal. The first is persistence. The start of a training program is unbelievably tough. Your stamina is low, your legs soon tire, and injury is a lingering threat. You need to push through, and keep on getting those miles underfoot. It could take weeks, but persistence does pay off and when you have a breakthrough day you’ll be one of the happiest and proudest people around.
The second is vision. You need to have an end goal and you need to know what it looks like. The visualization is a powerful motivator when times get tough and training starts grinding too much. Maybe it’s a svelte new waistline that fits easily into 32-inch trousers, maybe it’s crossing a finish line just a few meters ahead of the five hour bus, or maybe it’s giving a chase car driver a good run for his or her money. If you can see it, you can be it.
So for now, I can see the halfway point of my 10km run, and I can see the finish to the run. I can see the smiles and the relief on my wife’s face as we hit the home stretch, and I can see the endorphin-loaded good mood that should last all the way through until a few beers around the braai.
Last, but so very far from least, I can see myself ticking off the 10km block on the list on my wall, and that’s going to be the best feeling yet.