I’ve always like traveling by car. And, I’ve always subjected my family to my terminal wanderlust. On many an occasion my then young son would moan from the back seat, “Are we there yet”

My response was always. “Yep… we’re here”. He would sit up eagerly, and look out the window. Then, with a voice filled with disappointment he would say, “Aw Pop, this isn’t where we’re going” to which I would reply “But this is where we are”

He was not a happy traveler.

Whenever I started a journey of fitness and better health, including the “diet de jour”, [not just THIS time, but every time I started] the first thing I did was choose a destination. I’d decide that when I had lost 10 pounds, or 20, [or eventually 50 or 60 or more] I’d be thin. So every day I’d stand and the scale and ask myself if I was there yet. And of course, the answer was always no.

Oh, I’d get closer; for a day or two. I’d loose a few pounds, then put a couple back on, then loose a few more. I’d get stuck in a cycle of three steps forward, two steps back. And each time I went back it was harder to move forward.

Even this time, when I found running, I decided that when I could walk or run 3 miles I’d be a runner. I was convinced that 3 miles was a far as any rational person would want to run. Most days, I think it’s STILL as far as any rational person wants to run.

And so I’d run, and not make it to 3 miles. Day after day I was failing to reach my arbitrary destination. Day after day I was accumulating evidence that I was NOT a runner.  Every run helped convince me that I was not a runner. I wasn’t there yet.

What I didn’t know then about running was what I did know about traveling. Postponing the joy of the journey until you reach you destination is the WORST possible plan. Waiting to celebrate until you’ve gotten to where you think you want to go means missing all the wonderful places that you pass on the way.

In my ignorance and enthusiasm to reach my running goal, I tried to take every shortcut. I read every training plan. I was sure that there was some magic carpet that would transport me to my destination. It never occurred to me that I’d have to get there one step at a time.

Every new runner knows the game I played. If running 3 days a week is good, I’d tell myself that running 6 days a week must be TWICE as good. If running fast one day week improves your running efficiency, I told myself that running fast EVERY day must be better still. And when ignorance collides with enthusiasm the result is almost always injury.

It wasn’t’ the first time that I was injured that the truth revealed itself to me. And probably not the second or third time either. But eventually, as the weeks of recovery seemed to be replacing the weeks of training, I began to understand. Every run is a gift. Every run is a chance to be where you want to be. Every run is a chance to be there.

With that one thought, my running changed. I stopped deferring the joy I was feeling. I stopped accumulating days of failure. I started looking at each run, each time I was moving my body, as an opportunity to learn, to see, and to experience exactly what was there in front of me right then.

The results of that change are not merely philosophical. There are practical applications as well. Recently I was traveling and found myself running in Burlington, Colorado. It was Wednesday morning, a day when I would normally do some faster interval work.

But, on this Wednesday I found myself in the middle of acres and acres of sunflowers. In the bright morning sun is was like being neck deep in a sea of yellow. And I knew that the speed work would have to wait for another day. On this day, my gift to myself was to run for over an hour surrounded by thousands of smiling yellow faces.

I’m still not there yet. I know that. On those days that I struggle to find a pace or a distance that suits me, I know that I’m not there yet. But I am where I am. And I can tell you that it’s better than anywhere else I’ve ever been.

Waddle on, friends.

One Comment

  • Ellen Hamburger says:

    You are so right John. Yesterday I simply stopped walking and took a picture of a yard filled with tulips. Yes, I stopped and “smelled the roses”.

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