Today I was reminded of a valuable lesson that somehow I keep forgetting. Actually, it’s not really that I forget, it’s that I get so wrapped up in polishing and perfecting, that I disregard one of the most valuable lessons I’ve been learning my whole life: finish.
I’ve been trying to get slightly more serious about running, and I’ve been a little obsessed with trying to beat a certain time per mile. Since focusing on this goal I have made great improvements. In fact I began to realize that perhaps I wasn’t really pushing myself during my runs before focusing on bettering my time. But at the end of last week through the weekend, I was hit with a stomach “bug” that really took a lot out of me, literally. On Monday I gave myself permission to run a little over 3 miles instead of 4, but I still pushed for an “acceptable” target time. Today was different.
I was committed to running 4 miles before I even started, but in the first half mile I felt tightness in my hamstrings, there was pressure in my chest, and I wondered if I was going to pass out. Maybe I hadn’t drank enough water today? Maybe it was too hot or the air quality was too poor? What if I kicked it on this street, barely into my 30s, running at a mediocre speed? How embarrassing would that be? These were not helpful thoughts to be having. I cleared my head and pushed on.
I got through the first mile in 7:37, almost 15 seconds slower than what I had been running. That was okay I thought, I’ll make up the time. But my body said otherwise. I may as well have been running with weighted flippers on. I didn’t feel like I was going to pass out anymore, but I felt, truly, like shit. Second mile: 7:48. I began to be really disappointed in my inability to catch up to my previous times. Not only was I 30 seconds behind what had become my usual pace, I was slowing down and didn’t feel like I could do much better. My body just wasn’t responding today.
At this point I began to weigh the options. I should just cut it short so I don’t ruin my average I told myself. Maybe if I go all out for just another half mile I can save this thing and quit then. But then it hit me: I committed to 4 miles and maybe today I wasn’t setting any records. Maybe today I wasn’t even meeting my average. Today I was just going to finish and let that be enough.
As I ran through the remaining miles I thought about this process. How many other things in my life were like this? Many. I know it’s all about progress, not perfection, but I constantly lose sight of this. I do finish many things to near perfection, but there are many more things that don’t get done or don’t even get started because I’ve already decided it won’t be good enough before I even start them. Or I get really stressed out or overwhelmed with all the things I’m juggling that I’m trying to complete perfectly.
Though I felt like shit running today I was proud to have just finished what I said I was going to finish. Maybe I could have run a faster time if I had cut it short or just erased the time altogether from my records and chalk it up to illness. My average time per mile today was one of my worst ever, but it was probably one of the most important runs I’ve had in months.