As a recent assignment for a health & fitness class, I had to participate in a 5K walk or run. The last time I did a 5K, I lived in South Africa (a climate much more temperate than this hot, Louisiana summer) and I was nearly 10 years younger! But I knew that I needed the grade, so I recruited my daughter, and off we went.
When I arrived, I saw lots of healthy-looking people, dressed athletically, and doing their stretching – looking like they must run a 5K every weekend! Immediately, I started to feel a bit of intimidation about how I would look as an “obviously less in-shape and less-experienced” participant. Before my mind went too far off, I heard them calling for runner and walkers to line up.
Don’t let what external things “look like” deter you from preparing yourself to GO! When your thoughts begin to take you down the “but I don’t have” or “I’m not (this or that)” paths, listen for the voice of the “referee” (whether that is your faith, your goals or a human supporter). Allow that voice to call you back to attention, so that you can ready yourself for the beginning (or next leg) of your race.
The race started, and of course, the runners took off! I was at the back (as a walker), and my start didn’t seem too bad until I began to feel tightness in my calves – because I hadn’t stretched. I had started the race a bit before I was fully prepared. But I kept walking because (1) I hoped that if I kept walking, they’d stretch on their own, and (2) I had too much pride. If I am honest, I wasn’t going to be the “drop out” of a community 5K!
It’s often best to BEGIN, even if you are a bit less prepared than you’d like! Honestly, we will never be fully prepared to launch out toward your dreams and goals. If you had everything they required, you would have moved on to something else, right? Even if there are slight aches and pains (lessons or losses) along the way, having started the journey, you at least have momentum on your side. And a little momentum can go a long way. Having started, pride can sometimes serve as a great tool to keep you “in the game.”
As the race went on my daughter started to run (which I was not going to do) so the gap between me and everyone else widened, as we reached the halfway mark. By this time, I was sweating and praying the incline of the bridge we were crossing didn’t “take me out.” I noticed that I had gained a personal “police escort,” as I was alone at the end of the pack. I entertained myself and the officer by making jokes about helping him accrue overtime hours! My other big realization was that what I thought was the “halfway mark” was actually the 1 mile (of 3) mark! But I kept moving.
Plans change, obstacles come, and people separate from us. Find the lesson or the laugh – and keep moving! It does not matter that some people separate from you as you begin to pursue your goal; they may have goals of their own to pursue. It does not matter that there will sometimes be hills you did not anticipate, or benchmarks you miss. In the end, what IS important is that you stay in forward motion toward to goals you set. Just keep moving.
Although I didn’t like the look being so far behind the pack (there were times I could see no one, ahead of me!), I was resolved to finish the race. I knew that I needed the credit (for class). So, I stayed in motion at a pace that worked for me – not too challenging on my body and breathing, but one I could sustain long enough to cross the finish line. As the “checkpoints” closed down and packed up after I passed, I realize the race must be over for many people. But my race was still in full swing.
Pace yourself, and stay present in your “race,” remembering your goal and purpose. Sure, some people will do it faster – graduate college, start their business or ministry, lose weight, get married, or reach a certain income mark. What matters in your race, is the reason you started it. Success will come at the speed it needs to come for you. You can sprint at the start, and burn out; or you can move at a pace you can sustain. What good is the start, if you don’t set yourself up to finish? Pacing is key to enduring. Give little attention to the people ahead of you or the things behind you. Your full presence on your now will help sustain your momentum.
Alas, I turned a corner and saw the finish line ahead! I could see people who had finished the race – already enjoying refreshments and dancing to the celebratory music. Oh, I couldn’t wait to join that bunch! As I did my last several hundred feet, the entire race flashed before me. I had covered these same grounds, walking the other direction, when I first noticed the pain in my calves. And now, I was closing in on the goal. As I approached, I saw my daughter waiting for me on the other side – she looked so relaxed (like she’d finished an hour ago!), and she looked proud. Having her there to welcome me “home” magnified the joy I felt nearing the finish line.
As you near the goal, allow those who have finished before you to inspire you to keep going; and remember the inspiration that you are to those whose voices prompted you to start. I finished. By the time I did, the timers had been put away (so my time wasn’t clocked) and the party was in full swing. I was inspired by the colorful, glistening bottles of Powerade and the plates of jambalaya people were munching on. (Hey, it’s Louisiana – jambalaya is good for every occasion!)
Know that once you reach the goal, you join the ranks of the successful; and regardless of how long you take to get there, your celebration and reward will meet you! It was a great feeling to know that the same people who could have seemed a bit intimidating as we started the race, welcomed me into the dancing, food and music. I took celebratory pictures with my daughter, enjoyed refreshments, and received the rewards bestowed upon the finishers. A great time was had by all. I earned my class credit, and I had the satisfaction and pride of not just starting, but finishing.
It didn’t matter that I’d finished last.
What about you?
Who (or what) calls out to you to begin, or keep moving, toward your goal? How do you deal with obstacles that arise? How does it feel to cross the “finish line?” What are you working toward now?
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