Are You Up for the Challenge?

Photo by Aan Nizal on Unsplash

I began training for a half-marathon a few weeks ago. Let’s just say the excitement wears off real quick and you face the question “are you up for the challenge?” It’s late November, dark by 5pm, cold for Saturday morning long runs, and I get out of breath real quick.

I ran my first marathon 11 years ago. Training came easier then. Today I’m in my late 50s and my body has slowed down. Marathon/half-marathon training has taught me a key life concept. You can walk a 5k with practically no training. But you can’t cheat on your training and finish a long race.

Do the Hard Work

Our initial “long run” Saturday’s have been runs of about a mile to a mile-and-a-half. (This program is designed for couch potatoes.) I can already see it happening with some people. They show up for the Saturday run, walk the distance at a casual pace, and blow off the week-day training schedule. That works for short distances, but in a few weeks when we’re doing 8 and 9 milers, it will turn the cheaters into quitters.

Whatever you try in life, you have to pay the piper. Like Ringo Starr’s old song said, “you gotta pay your dues if you want to sing the blues and you know it don’t come easy. If you want to get a better job, get a degree, or get in shape you have to do the hard work. Not only that, you have to do it when no one is looking.

The World Doesn’t Care

The world doesn’t care whether I complete my half-marathon. In fact, I’ve got a few “friends” who would just as soon I fail or quit. I’m already getting ribbed by co-workers about becoming a “stud.” That’s because when you start losing a few pounds and getting in shape, it reminds them that they are 40 pounds overweight and not doing a danged thing about it. Also, I’m eating salad instead of going to their favorite soul-food buffet.

In the same way, the world is peachy-keen with you settling for mediocre. Too many of your friends, and even family, are A-okay with you living an average life. Average means you’re better than half the population, but the other half of the population is better than you. Is that what you want?

You Have to Work for It

If you want to achieve a worthy goal, you have to work for it. Nothing worthwhile comes easy. Let me repeat; nothing worthwhile comes easy. But let me also say this. I’ve experienced crossing the finish line of a marathon when I never thought I’d do it. If you want to get a degree, you’ve got to pass the required courses. If you want to lose weight, you’ve got to do the hard work of diet and exercise.

If you want to grow a business, you’ve got to do the hard work of coming in early, staying late and learning the appropriate skills. Show me a genuinely successful person and I’ll show you somebody who did the work long before becoming successful.

When No One is Looking

It’s not enough to want something. You’ve got to work for it. That means working when no one is looking. That means running when it’s too cold, or too early, or too dark or when you don’t feel like it. It means studying when you’d rather watch a movie or writing when you’d rather take a nap. No one will blame you if you take a nap or watch a movie. But no one will cheer you across the finish line on race day either. That’s because you won’t be there if you take short-cuts.

I got in a 30 minute jog after work today. It wasn’t particularly fun. I cut the run short by about a mile because of darkness. While I wore reflective clothing, after-work traffic made running the last mile a bit risky. But I did the run and now feel better for doing it.

Think about your dream. That thing that you’d love to accomplish and have the talent and skills to do it. Also think of why you haven’t done it. It’s hard work and outside your comfort zone. It’s much easier to stay where you are. But also think about the regret of not reaching your dream, or not even going for it. Do you want to live with that regret?

No one may be looking now. But if you do the hard, disciplined work to complete a significant goal in your life, people will notice when you cross the finish line. So, set a worthy goal that stretches you out of your comfort zone. Pick something that you have the skills and ability to accomplish, but will take hard, determined work. Then lay out a plan and go do it.

Realize it will be hard, but when you cross that finish line, it will be oh-so worth it.

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