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There is running for the sake and love of running, then there is running in pursuit of something else: a goal. In the lifespan of a runner, each phase serves its purpose and has its place in time. But when you are ready to settle on a goal, and especially when you decide to chase one that seems completely out of reach, my advice is this: Embrace it, claim it as your own, and share it with someone, anyone—everyone.
When I signed up for the NYC Marathon, I did the modern equivalent of shouting it from the rooftops. This is what I learned:
Naming your goal is the bravest step you’ll take during your journey.
It is one thing to quietly contemplate possible goals. It is quite another to hit the “submit” button on a race application and announce your intentions to your friends and family. Nothing says “there’s no turning back now” quite like letting someone else in on your goal-setting secret. After you announce your intentions, your training plans and routines will fall into place. But there is no prescribed training formula for that first step—the act of committing to your goal and finding the courage to verbalize it. This must come from inside of you and you alone. And in that, there is strength.
If you do not have the answer, someone will.
There is a vast community of runners out there to support you if you reach out, even a little bit. When you do, it will not take long for you to discover that runners have a long list of experiences in common: injuries, plateaus, personal triumphs, disappointments and, oh yes, the challenge of addressing all of those indelicate bodily issues that go with the sport. The bottom line is this: Where there is a problem, other runners will have either a solution, a good deal of empathy, or both.
The fact that you shared your goal is the power boost you might need to keep moving forward.
Call it “being held accountable” or “the power of peer pressure” or blame it on the fact that I still have social hang ups left over from junior high, but just the idea of falling short in the eyes of others sometimes was enough to keep me going on days when I was not feeling it. I understand that my goals are the least of my friends’ priorities—they have their own busy lives to manage and their own ambitions to chase. But sometimes just the prospect that on Monday morning someone might casually ask about my weekend long run was the push I needed to finish to avoid the possibility of having to confess that I bailed out half way through for no good reason.
Everyone needs cheerleaders.
Because running is very much an individual endeavor, you will build your own inner strength and fortitude to rely on when race day arrives. But having friends and family in your corner rooting for you does not hurt. When the big day arrives, seeing them on the course or at the finish, or knowing that wherever they are they are cheering you on, is energizing, uplifting and will make you smile. Guaranteed.
Life’s experiences are richer when they are shared.
When you open yourself up to others, more often than not you will find that they also let you in. Memories are created, friendships are forged, relationships are strengthened, and together you will wind through your journeys together. And when occasions call for celebration (goal race!) nothing will be more meaningful or impactful than sharing it with those who were with you as you chased your dream.
So name and claim your goal. Put it out there and see what happens. You will not regret it. I promise.
Elizabeth Ewens juggles life as an attorney, author, wife, mom and runner, and proudly finished her first NYC Marathon in 2015 and is training for her next goal: the 2016 Chicago Marathon. You can read more about her journey at midliferun.today or follow her on twitter @elizabeth_ewens.