…start again. Start as if you’re starting from scratch.
I was remembering this morning the experience of running my very first sub-hour 10K, back in March 2010. It was a really big deal for me, but I absolutely loathed it! Around 6K I really honestly thought I couldn’t go a step further. I’d started too fast and I felt dreadful – dizzy and out of breath and aching. I thought about how I’d stop right there, get off the path, give up and walk back to the lockers. I clearly imagined myself walking back across Regent’s Park, collecting my bag and going home.
Then I realised that whilst I’d been running all this through my mind, I’d still been travelling forward, one step at a time, at exactly the same pace. I’d covered some more ground. So it was possible to keep going. I got back in my race and ran the last kilometres like I was just starting out on a little 4K run. I didn’t manage a negative split, but I did get in before the hour (58:28).
At the more dramatic end of the scale, Scott Jurek, one of the greatest endurance runners, got 60 miles into the 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon in Death Valley when he collapsed by the side of the road, feeling utterly hopeless and unable to go any further. As recounted in Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, Scott told himself “There’s no way. You’re done. You’d have to do something totally sick to win this thing now. Sick like what? Like starting all over again. Like pretending you just woke up from a great night’s sleep and the race hasn’t even started yet.”
And he did it. He got up, shrugged off the pain of the last 60, and ran eighty miles faster than ever before, even setting a new record time for the Badwater race with a time of 24 hours, 36 minutes.
I think sometimes life goes the same way. You might have worked incredibly hard or ploughed your heart and soul into something, built yourself up to achieve your goals and dreams, and then for whatever reason doubt enters your mind. It seems too hard, and the end too far away. All the little setbacks and struggles that you overcame at the time, suddenly feel like a weight of evidence that tells you it won’t be possible to reach the finish.
But what if you throw them aside? Dismiss all your doubts and fears and anything that’s come before this moment? Start exactly where you are right now and take one step forward, as if it’s your first?
“What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step. It is always the same step, but you have to take it.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery