Back in high school, our morning assemblies at the gym were capped by a short talk from one of the school administrators, probably to try and motivate us to study, or at the very least deter us from attempting anything which may lead to a visit to the principal's office. Out of the hundreds of talks I listened to, there is one lesson I recall in vivid detail up to this day. It's a metaphor on consistency--a stone with a hole worn through the middle, worn away by a constant drip of water. A drop of water, which in itself is practically weightless, can wear away a rock through small, but constant pressure over a span of years or decades, if not centuries. We may not be sure how long it would take but one thing is certain: it can not be achieved overnight. If the same amount of water from those cumulative drops were placed in a large container and poured over the stone, it won't create a hole. The stone will merely get wet.
That story obviously struck a chord with the procrastinator that I am, and it got me thinking about how the small decisions we make on a daily basis can have a much larger, long-term effect on our lives. As a runner, let's see how that lesson applies to training, or simply becoming a better runner.
My alarm clock is set to go off at 5 AM on four days of the week. Waking up at that hour is easy. It's getting up that's difficult. I'm then faced with my first decision for the day: do I stand up and get ready, or do I hit the snooze button for another five minutes of rest? I'll be the first to admit that sometimes I've pressed "snooze" so many times that by the time I get up, I'm running (ha!) late for work. If I miss my morning run, do I make it up in the evening or pass for the day?
Those small choices are like forks in the road. Sure, they're not as life altering as say, moving to another country, but through time, our decisions have a cumulative effect on our lives. One missed run today might become two missed runs next week. Then it might start to snowball. Our task is to make sure that--while we may take the easier way out at times--the scale should always be tipped in favor of the choices that help us achieve our goals.
While this is something we have direct control over, the results of our training do not manifest immediately, and that is something we need to understand and respect. We commonly hear of people's frustrations over running because they don't see the effects right away--the love handles are still there, I can still place a beer on top of my belly, I still can't run a sub-2:00 half marathon--and these cause some to quit. But we can't expect to be able to run a marathon in a month's time without any prior preparation. That's why programs are designed to build a foundation based on long runs that become progressively longer as you count down the weeks to race day, because we prepare step by step. Do otherwise, and you'd risk an injury. We get to those goals like the proverbial tortoise who went slowly but surely. Whether it's a new PR or the final 10 pounds, we ought to be happy with shaving off a "mere" two seconds or two pounds. Don't frustrate yourself. Be patient. At least you know you're on the right track.
The same could also apply to another facet of the sport: nutrition. When I started running, I used to eat anything I could put my hands on, justifying my edacity with the thought that I can run all those calories away. My staple diet could be easily described as "anything", until I read up and learned about proper nutrition. When I discovered that eating a quarter-pounder with cheese at McDonald's instantly negates a 10K run, I began to think better about what I stuff in my mouth (make of that what you wish). Soon, I began to work in auto-pilot, and my prior choices have steered me into a healthier diet, cutting down drastically meat, and avoiding junk like the plague (most of the time). I started thinking about going vegetarian again. Currently, my meals at home heavily feature legumes, leafy vegetables, and tofu. Like everything else, this did not happen overnight. It started with a "Meatless Monday" and before I knew it, I've been stockpiling on corn like the Raramuri. Only mine's usually canned.
I guess the point I'm trying to make is that while there are many other aspects of running we have no control over, nobody else makes our decisions for us. We need to make our choices count because they dictate our actions. Our actions become habits, our habits become attitude, and our attitude speaks loudly about our character.
So on the next morning we all try to drag ourselves out of bed, or the next time we're muttering profanities under our breath at the track, let's all run with confidence in the knowledge that we've made the right choice.