Outgrow Your Challenges

 

My wife Lucy, and I started this crazy thing of running a 5K race every month since May 2014. It's been great for me to get back out running again. In preparation for the races, we made a habit of run/walking a 5K route two to three times a week. This route is along State Bridge Road, a major street off which we live.

This practice route on State Bridge road has a number of hills which makes it a good track on which to practice and develop endurance. There is however a hill that is .7 miles long with an incline steep enough to challenge any runner. You don't notice how steep it really is till you run it, and it is encountered on the way home after you've run close to 2 miles. I was determined to run the whole course without stopping, but that would prove a tougher challenge than I anticipated.

Conquering this hill became my obsession for about 2 months. Each time I'd get to the foot of the hill, I would psyche myself that this was the day to overcome the hill, and I'd take off running. With my heart racing, muscles aching, and lungs gasping for air, I never made it to the halfway point up the hill. One evening, out of sheer frustration for not not being able to run the hill, panting, I yelled to the hill (I really did) "hill, you will never grow bigger, but I will get stronger."

I got home and shared my frustration with my wife. "The problem is that you are trying to run the hill," she said. "What?" I responded. "Don't focus on the hill, focus on the poles on the hill. Your goal should be to run 1 pole further each time." There are about 14 electric poles going up the hill, how come I never thought about this. I decided to apply her suggestion and focus on the poles. "Run 1 pole further" sounded like an achievable goal. I was already running close to the half-way point, so my next goal was to run to the next pole.

Changing my focus helped build my endurance in manageable increments; 1 pole at a time. And 1 pole at a time, I started running a little farther up the hill with less strain. It took me about 3 months, but I finally conquered the hill without stopping, and eventually the whole course as well. I killed the hill.

I learned some key life lessons from this:

  1. The best way to overcome a challenge is to outgrow it.
  2. The biggest battle is not the challenge but the voice in your mind.
  3. If you see yourself overcoming the challenge, you will.
  4. We can't grow in a day, but we can grow daily.
  5. Your attitude will determine if you overcome the challenge. Embrace the challenges you go through.
  6. It's more important to grow than to overcome the challenge.
  7. Be open to tackling bigger challenges.

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