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Lessons Learned: Plan Ahead…. But Not Too Far

This weekend was Hilton Head’s annual Bridge Run. For the past seven years (excluding last year when I was expecting) I have run this 10K race. The weather is beautiful this time of year, and the run always draws my mind to all that has happened over the past year, and even since my first Bridge Run.

This year I was not looking forward to the event the way I usually do. My journey in rebuilding my fitness level has been slower than desired after this last pregnancy, and frankly, I was worried that feelings of embarrassment or disappointment might overwhelm me when race time came. After some stern self-talk followed by a few reluctant clicks of my mouse, I was signed up for the race. Ready or not, I was committed.

I ran the bridge a couple times in order to help prepare my mindset…it was too late for it to make much of a difference in my physical performance.  I prepared myself for a realistic finishing time, and because I had not run a full 10K prior to the race, I’d also given myself permission to walk for 2-3 minutes two times over the course (although my heart wasn’t really okay with that). I had a fear that I would push too hard early in the race and then not be able to finish with the strength I hoped to. I showed up that morning a little discouraged and fighting an inner battle of disappointment in myself before the race even began. I decided to slow my mind by just taking the course one mile at a time.

Originally, my goal was to get over the bridge before breaking into a walk (around 3 miles). At the end of mile-1, I was starting to talk myself into a “pre-bridge walk” so I could save some energy to actually get up the hill. When I hit the mile-2 marker, which was about 1/2 mile before the incline, I said to myself,”I don’t think I have to walk yet, maybe I can make it over the bridge like I originally planned…” I did. I got to the 3-mile mark and, because I hadn’t seen Chef Jen or David (program intern) pass me yet and I didn’t want them to see me walking, I decided to push on to mile 4. As I gained on the 4-mile marker, I noticed that no one else was breaking for a walk and determination set it. I had gotten that far and just knew I would be disappointed with myself if I let up now. I crossed back over the bridge and finished the race without a single walking break. I forgot to mention that I was going about 10% faster than a snail’s pace, but that’s beside the point. I planned ahead and built in some realistic expectations, but I did not fall back on them as outlets and made timely decisions based on how I felt in the moment.

Just as these decisions went in a positive direction, another day they could have easily gone the other way. Folks, it’s a winding road with peaks and valleys. I’m telling this story not to receive affirmations, but to show that it’s important to own your successes just as much as it is to own your failures. We have both, and they are each important to our journeys.  Don’t let unrealistic expectations stop you from achieving your goal. I’m closer today to having a better Bridge Run next year than I would be if I had decided that I wasn’t “good enough” to do it this year. What opportunity will you give yourself today?

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