Thursday, January 1, 2015

Of a Resolution (Finally) Kept and Lessons Learned

For the last three years I have had made one New Year's resolution, one goal.  Same goal each of those three years.  Run 1,000 miles during the calendar year.

I have never been one to make too many New Year's resolutions.  I am a firm believer in making goals and working to achieve them, but I'm not the type that at the start of each new year makes a list of things I will and won't do.  This was something that I really wanted to do, though.

In 2014 I finally accomplished this goal.  For me, it's a HUGE milestone.  I like to run; both of my blog readers can tell you that.  I am not a fast runner, I am competitive only with myself.  I have actually won my age group in two races.  Both time, I was the only one in my age group.  So it's not like I'm some amazing running guru.

In both 2012 and 2013 I came woefully short of my goal.  Like a couple hundred miles short.  I can make excuses for why it didn't happen.  I had injuries that took me out for weeks at a time in each of those years.  I had a challenging work schedule.  I was traveling, blah-blah-blah.

But this past year, I did it.  One thousand miles.  Aside from the obvious physical benefits of running, I think the spiritual lessons I learned are of greater worth to me.  It took over 170 hours of running over the year, and I had a lot of time to think about a lot of things.  My family, my seminary class, my job, the world in general, my relationship with my Heavenly Father.  Sure, I thought about running, too, but often my internal musings inclined towards the application of what I was doing to life in general, such as:
  • The journey of a thousand miles does not happen in a single day.  It requires persistence and dedicated effort spread out over a long time.  A few miles every day adds up over time, and you cannot forget that even those quick, little efforts are part of the long-term cumulative goal.
  • When the big tests in life come, you can see the strength that comes from consistent, daily efforts to strengthen yourself.  You cannot decide that you will run a marathon a couple of days or even a couple of weeks before and expect to do well.  You need to get those daily, short training runs in, with the occasional long runs.  Likewise, when those trials in life come--and they will inevitably come--we will be better prepared to deal with them with our Father's help when we have made consistent, daily efforts to include Him in our lives through regular prayer and scripture study.
  • Despite our best intentions and constant efforts, we will still have bad days.  It doesn't mean that we are bad or that we are failing or that Heavenly Father has abandoned us.  It just means that some days are better than others.  We don't define ourselves by those bad days.  We learn from them and move on with the hope that tomorrow will be better.
  • Progress requires dedicated, concentrated efforts, and sometimes those efforts can seem boring, repetitious, or even a little lame.  If you want to run faster, you have to dedicate parts of your training to actually run faster.  Hoping or wishing that you will is not sufficient.  Case in point: I really do not enjoy speed workouts, but I cannot deny that my overall pace has improved because of them, hence I continue to incorporate track and hill workouts into my training regimen.  If you want to have a greater understanding of God's word, you have to be willing to immerse yourself in the scriptures and study the teachings of His prophets, even when it seems like you've already done that a million times.
  • Building on all the points above, variety can be a good thing.  Sure, I could have run the same route every day and eventually I would have reached my goal.  But some days I knew I wouldn't be able to run more than a few miles.  Other days I felt like I could take on the world and I ran much, much further.  Some days I want to dig into the scriptures and spend lots of time finding all the passages that relate to a given topic and cross referencing them between the Book of Mormon and the Bible and the Doctrine and Covenants.  Other times I want to read a talk from a recent General Conference and take that quick thought with me for the day.  Either one of these is better than doing nothing.
  • Family and friends are invaluable.  No, they can't run for you, you have to do that yourself.  No, they can't read your scriptures for you, you have to do that yourself.  But they can support you, they can offer you words of encouragement, they can be there right beside you.  I would not have made it to 1,000 miles without the help of my friend Kenny.  The hours of training together are one thing, but without him, I literally would not have completed my first ultramarathon.  Likewise, without my amazing, sweet, incomparable wife Mali, I would not be half the man I am today.  She makes me want to be a better husband, father, and man.

There are other lessons--I've been toying with the idea of writing an allegory of the runner for use in my seminary class--but I'll save those for later.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go run.  I think today is a speed day.  Another thousand miles doesn't just happen on its own.

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