One hundred twenty-six days ago, I was overweight. I was 6’1” and 220lbs. I needed to do something, so I turned to was exercise. I started out trying to run. I could barely run half a mile before I got winded and had to stop. I couldn’t keep going. Now, 126 days later, I have run my first 5k. I didn’t do an official 5k or anything. I just ran the 5k distance (3.1 miles) – run away from my house, go 1.55 miles down the street, turn around, and run 1.55 miles back.
I had never run a 5k before. I had once been very close. I got all the way to 2.7 miles. But then I got injured for a week, sick for another week, and didn’t run for almost all of March. I tried running again after that, but I got tired after running just a mile, and I stopped. Eventually, after a bit more practice I worked my way back to being able to run 1.5 miles, but it still wasn’t going well. I was a long way away from being able to break the 5k barrier.
Today, I wanted to run again. I set out, thinking I could at least beat my previous 1.5 mile plateau. This was the day I could run 1.6 miles. It ended up being the day I ran my first 5k. I not only broke through my plateau, but doubled the distance, broke through, and did what I never thought was possible.
I’m amazed at how much of the effort was mental. The road I was on was very hilly, and I was weighed down by the knowledge that I hadn’t been running so well recently. Eventually, I saw one of the hills in the distance, and it looked steep. I knew that I would never be able to run up them. But I told myself that this was the time I had to do it, and I was determined to just not stop. So I ended up running up the hill. It turned out to not be steep at all. The steepness that I had perceived earlier was just an optical illusion produced by the distance.
Eventually, the next hill came up. It looked steep. But I ran up it all the same, barely even noticing how steep it was once I actually came to it. I grew amazed by how much of this was in my head; how much I was dramatizing it and making it worse with my negative thoughts. Eventually, running a bit further, I got a pain in my chest. I thought I should stop, just in case it was a problem. This time, however, I decided to keep going, and barely two minutes later, the chest pain went away without any issue.
A bit longer in, my shoulder started hurting. I wanted to stop. I didn’t. Two minutes later, the shoulder pain was gone.
Later in, I started having a bit of trouble breathing. I wanted to stop. I didn’t. Eventually, I stabilized my breath, and kept on running just fine.
I think a lot of challenges in my life only look like challenges from the beginning, and I dramatized them with negative thoughts. Now, I don’t think that getting rid of negative thoughts is the secret of all of success. I don’t think that we shouldn’t pay attention to challenges. And I definitely don’t think it’s a good idea to keep running if you’re experiencing pain and it isn’t going away.
But many times in my life, I’ve noticed that I, as the idiom goes, “make a mountain out of a molehill”. But when I get to the hill and think it’s too much of a mountain to surpass, I’m amazed at how easy it ends up being if I just pay no attention and keep on going. Many of the mountains I encounter aren’t mountains at all. And I’m more successful when I remember that, and just keep on running.
It will be easier than I thought, because those are not mountains.