As my blog followers already know, in January, I set some goals

  1. Run the BOLDERBoulder 10K on Memorial Day and stop to walk only once
  2. Run the ColderBOLDER 5K in December and not walk at all
  3. Run both races with faster times than last year.

This past Sunday was the day—the BOLDERBoulder 10K…nearly 50,000 runners at approximately 5,000 feet above sea level.

In the words of my coach, Matt, “Yesssss!!! Awesome Job!!!”

And it was. I crushed both of my goals—didn’t stop at all along the route, not even once, and ran approximately six minutes faster than I did last year, finishing in 1:02:37. That actually put me in 28th place out of 239 other 58-year-old female runners. Not too shabby.

So then why, when my sister asked how I felt after the race, did my answer include a “but” as in, “I feel good and proud, but I didn’t break 60 minutes,” which had become my secret goal after running a 10K in April in Connecticut in under 58 minutes. Or worse, “I feel good and proud, but last year I ran the race without any training, so since I’ve been training for this for four months, shouldn’t I have cut even more time?” Frankly, in my twisted mind, it’s almost embarrassing that I’ve made such a big deal of my training for this, given that many people train for marathons in less time and many people I know are running both half and full marathons.

OK…this is not the way this thought train is supposed to run. But since I know that I’m not the only one who goes on these rides, I am sharing it with you and perhaps we can both learn from it.

So let me rewrite this story.

Everyone’s lives and abilities and priorities are different—big or small, setting a goal and achieving it is a big deal. Period.

When I set my goal for this race, I was in the midst of a very heavy work schedule…had just come off of a very stressful year for my family…and frankly, I really don’t like running. I was just doing it so that I could share the experience with my daughter Callie and some others. I also did it to challenge myself to actually make an effort this year because last year I made no effort and suffered afterward. (It was days before I could sit down pain-free after last year’s race.)

For me, committing to this run and the associated training was a very big deal. And upon reflection, I am indeed proud of the lessons I’ve learned and what I accomplished along the way…

  1. I never missed a practice assignment. On occasion, I had to adjust due to injuries, but I always exercised in some way. Given my schedule, this wasn’t an easy feat.
  2. I did not let assorted aches and pains deter me. Over the course of training, I had to work through hip, knee and foot pain. I stretched. I soaked. I rolled. I worked through those injuries and adjusted my workouts accordingly. In the last two weeks, I developed pretty severe adductor and hip pain—but still didn’t quit. I adjusted my workouts, massaged, received deep fascia treatment, stretched, soaked—whatever it took. I did not break my commitment.
  3. I ran 9.5 miles one day! During my training, I was required to go for longer runs on Sundays, starting at 60 minutes and working up to 90. If anyone ever told me that I could run eight to nine miles regularly and feel “fine,” I would have thought he/she was crazy. But I did!
  4. I learned to enjoy the peace of running. Matt’s goal was that I learn to love running by race day. I can’t say that I have learned to love it, but I have definitely learned to appreciate the hypnotic rhythm of it.
  5. I learned to listen to my body. Rather than run for the distance, Matt has his athletes run for time and just listen to what their body needs along the way. Some days are longer, even-paced runs…once a week, intervals or climbs…and other days, easy recovery runs. Underneath it all is the message to listen to your body and go at the pace that feels right at that moment.

There’s one lesson that I still haven’t learned…and I think it circles right back to this thought train of “but.” I never fully learned the lesson of ease.

Given that my business life depends on a constant push for excellence and growth…and my way of being is about making the most of every day and every interaction…Matt’s constant reminder to allow ease in my training never quite became part of me.

As a former athlete, I was trained to run and work hard every day. Apparently that helped my mental and emotional strength, but it didn’t help my physical development since it didn’t allow muscles to recover. Prior to running, I would cross-train, alternating between strength and cardio workouts, so I had built-in recovery periods for my muscles. But when training to run, I was doing the same exercise five or six days/week, which meant different levels of difficulty on different days. In my crazy mind, I felt like I was cheating if I went s-l-o-w, even on the days after the long runs when my body was wiped out. I couldn’t help but throw in a little sprint at the end of every workout. Why? Because I had always challenged myself to dig a little deeper even at the end, just to see if I could find the juice.

That desire to push and critique, I believe, is a good thing that has served me well. It’s not appropriate everywhere. Just like my little black cocktail dress is a good thing and serves me well, but it is not appropriate everywhere. Sometimes you need jeans…and sometimes you need ease.

Having a mind that is constantly critical is not ease. Ease respects the daily variations. Ease understands. Ease accepts. Ease paces. Oddly, I think I have ease for others, but within myself, I have the constant harsh, hard and unforgiving “but.” I’m not proud of that, and I know it doesn’t make me feel good. And…I’m sure that I’m not alone in that mental chatter.

In the spirit of acceptance and understanding, I once again acknowledge this challenge for me and know that it’s something I need to work on. We all have life challenges to work toward—finding that place of ease and, yes, unconditional pride, is part of my life’s challenges.

So let me recast that “but” on my results—I set a goal that was right for me…not only did I meet my goal, I surpassed it…I am proud for all that I learned and achieved on the journey…and I had fun. It was a kick-ass day.

Now let’s hope that I can succeed in my life’s challenge of incorporating ease into my life and silencing the “buts” while continuing to push to be my best. Want to join me in that challenge?

Sarah Hiner, president and CEO of Bottom Line Inc., is passionate about giving people the tools and knowledge they need to be in control of their lives in areas such as living a healthier life, the challenges of the health-care system, commonsense financial advice and creating great relationships. She appears often on national radio and hosts the Bottom Line Advocator Podcast,  where she interviews leading experts to help people be their own best advocates in all areas of life.