For me, the year started in February, once I finished up my job in late January. I don't know why, but apparently at this time of the year you set yourself some lofty goals. I set myself just six of them: find a new job, more yoga, sub 2 half, 6.0 GPA, minimalism and networking. So far I have only achieved one. I am doing more yoga. I still don't have a steady job and I've managed to get further away from my GPA goal (thanks, pophlth 706). Networking isn't really measurable, but I have definitely made an effort to widen my circle and be more open to interactions that I would normally avoid. So maybe that counts for something too. Keep an eye out for an entire blog post about my struggle towards minimalism, that's for another day.
So there's one final goal that I haven't addressed: the sub 2 hour half. I never intended for this blog to be about running, but I think we all knew we'd get to this topic eventually. I can't remember when I decided I wanted to run a half marathon, but once I was in, I was all in. I signed up, chose my charity and began my training. I knew it wasn't going to be easy but I really didn't realise that the actual running was going to be the easiest part. I struggled to manage my time and it was my recovery that suffered. My training plan had my long run on Saturdays, before a 10 hour shift on my feet. I would get up at 5am, run for two hours, shower and go straight to work. I would finish work at 6pm, eat pizza and be asleep by 8pm. I was so stuck on following the plan precisely that I didn't consider anything else.
One month before the race, I taped my calf and headed out the door. I hadn't run in two days as the pain in my calf had reached a level that left me nauseated. I barely made it 2km before I was in tears, there was no way I was going to make it another 18km and certainly not in time for work. I booked a physio appointment for the next day and surprise, I had been gradually tearing my calf with every run for the past two weeks. I took TWELVE whole days off running, just while we confirmed that I hadn't actually stress fractured my shin. I was devastated. I felt like I had let everyone down, every person who had donated to my campaign and every person who had accommodated my new lifestyle. Going against all advice, less than three weeks later I crossed the finish line and created one of the most rewarding experiences I've had thus far. There's something special about doing something you weren't sure you could.
I'm the type of person who has made it through life putting in the absolute minimum effort. I play it safe, I only pursue the things I know I'm good at, and I give up on things before I've even started. After completing that first event in 2:27, I knew I had to set my sights on a sub 2 hour half; and with a healthy calf, I knew I could get there. I've since completed another 5 half marathons and I seem to be getting slower, which I didn't even know was possible. All of my training runs have predicted a successful race, but on the day something always goes wrong. I've had everything from injury, to heat stroke and simply hitting the wall. With every disappointing finish, the shame compounds and I wonder if running is for me at all. The more I reflect, the more I realise that it's my mindset that needs to change. If you're telling yourself you can't do it, and all the evidence you've seen says you can't, how the heck do you expect to find the motivation to put the work in?
Last week I came across Carol Dweck's TED Talk about what she calls the 'growth mindset', where you work towards viewing skills and success as things that are malleable, rather than fixed. I know I've got a tendency to believe that some people are just good at things and others are not. As a result, I've played almost every sport, tried every craft and several styles of dance for at most a couple of weeks before deciding it wasn't for me. I've stayed with academia and shied away from almost everything else, but what Dweck suggests is that something that doesn't require effort isn't really worth celebrating. This was a real revelation for me, it's straight forward but it's important. So that's my focus for this week (and indefinitely); to see each failure as an opportunity for growth. Not achieving what I set out to do is no longer going to be a signal to give up, it's going to be a signal to try again.
So I'll be running the Auckland Half Marathon again, and I'm ready to put the "failures" behind me. Watch this space.