I remember the first time I quit a race midway through the course. It was October 2014 and I was participating in the Rock Bridge Revenge 50k Trail Race in Columbia, Mo. The run was a little over 31 miles and after the halfway mark, I decided to give up and quit. I was cold, wet, miserable, and in the most negative state of mind.
My first foray into the ultra distance trail running world was not pretty. Throughout the fifteen-ish miles of race I did accomplish, I fell numerous times, ‘swam’ across creeks I should have been able to wade through, was passed by what felt like a million other runners, and was given words of encouragement that I took as condescending. I wanted to hide in a turtle shell and never come out again. I did not enjoy that beautiful, cold, fall day in Columbia. In retrospect, I now know that my attitude was not correct and that my state of mind reflected my insecurities in my ability to run that race.
Throughout the rest of 2014 and 2015, my lack of commitment to my athletic ability really disheartened me. There has never been another time in my life where I let myself have such a laissez-faire attitude towards competition. Up until that fateful October day, even if I came in last place, I always finished a race I had the courage to begin.
The ability to follow through on a commitment is so important to me. Not finishing that trail race is on my list of regrets. It might not seem like a big deal to the average person, but to me, because I expect so much from myself and so much from my athletes, I felt like a hypocrite. With my athletes, I try my darndest to help instill a sense of personal commitment to their goals. Even my four-year-old swim students are not allowed to tell me they can’t achieve a certain skill I expect from them. Instead, we change our words to, “I will try.” It might take them a day, week, month, or year, but eventually they will succeed. I did not follow my own advice that day. I did not try. I gave up. I quit.
To make a commitment to a goal is the easy part; to follow through on that commitment is where the real work begins. That’s true when it comes to training, competition, and relationships; with yourself and others. I’m still in the process of getting my mind back into training and competition mode. There are days with my own coaches that I moan, complain, and act like a bratty teenager. But I expect my own team of coaches to have the same commitment level to me as I do to them as a coach. It’s about trust; trusting in yourself, your ability, and in the people who are there to guide you.
One idea I would love for people to think about is what kind of commitments are they willing to make in their lives and the stick-to-it-ness that it involves. Commitments do not have to be huge spectacles and declarations of ginormous goals. It can be as simple as smiling when your day is rough, running a mile instead of walking it, or dedicating 15 minutes a day telling yourself what an amazing person you are. The follow-through is where real accomplishment and real change occurs. It can and will happen, I promise.