It’s not a sprint …
Updated: Jan 16, 2022
“If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing well. If it is worth having, it is worth waiting for. If it is worth attaining, it is worth fighting for. If it is worth experiencing, it is worth putting aside time for.”
— Oscar Wilde*
The miles pile up behind me, as a gentle wind accompanies my run, sometimes caressing my back, sometimes hitting my chest, but without much persistence. The sound of my feet hitting the gravel is like a mantra that keeps me attached to this reality. I keep looking forward, trying to keep my focus. My breathing and pulse are stable, and my legs feel strong and secure, despite the long exertion. My whole body moves in harmony, while everything seems to be under control.
Eventually, however, throughout the race the boredom begins to settle in, and the temptation to hurry up to get to the finish line as soon as possible grows by the minute.
Often times, that's the exact moment when a career with a record-breaking prospect turns into a mere struggle for survival.
Waiting is anything but easy.
Beyond life’s experience and lessons, learning to let time pass to reap the fruits of our work and effort costs a lot. Enduring the urge to speed things up by skipping stages, is a temptation that is sometimes constant, sometimes sporadic, but almost always present.
As a devoted runner, using this discipline as an analogy for cadence, pace and planning suits me well.
One of the essential skills a good runner needs is knowing how to run. As obvious as this may seem, trying to gain an intimate knowledge of our own abilities is seldom a priority.
There are long, short, speed and endurance races and, in each one, tactics vary, as do preparation and training. Knowing how to prepare depends on the challenge we are preparing for. Again, this may sound extremely obvious but, nonetheless, the lack of a clear goal results in an inadequate preparation, likely to lead to injury and failure. If our goal is to train for a marathon, concentrating our routine exclusively on explosion and speed exercises will provide insufficient results. And that is precisely the scenario that so commonly I see unfolding in front of my eyes: people who try to run at a sprint pace, when what they are trying to complete is a marathon.
Certainly, this analogy does not belong to me (“Life’s a marathon, not a sprint”, is a very well-known saying, whose authorship does not seem to be clear) and, surely, you have already heard it many times. Even so, there seem to be few who have it in mind when planning their life’s long run. I was included in that category for many years, until I began to see the holes in my strategy, the hard way.
Adjusting our cadence and pace
Patience is a virtue that some bring from the cradle. In my particular case, I was late on distribution day, and could only get the leftovers. One of the greatest challenges in my life has been learning to be patient, to work without despair, trusting in the result. But waiting is not synonymous with inaction, so finding the right balance between a fruitful wait and a harmful pause is critical to our progress. As I have mentioned on other occasions, there are no magic solutions, but work, perseverance, trial and error. But as we move forward, our goal will continue to get closer. Whether it is losing weight, learning to control our emotions or, literally, completing a marathon, discipline, perseverance and daily learning, among other tools, will lead us to find our ideal pace.
In the same way that an athlete hydrates and nourishes during a long race, mitigating the effects that the effort causes in his organism, our journey through life also demands to nourish ourselves with things that strengthen and protect us. It is essential to seek inspiration daily, and not waste our free time, scarce or not, on things that do little or nothing for us. A book, a conference, a workshop, or simply sharing exclusive and quality time with our loved ones, will greatly contribute to our emotional health, providing a space for mental recovery and stress relief.
Adjusting our cadence and finding the right pace is vital and irreplaceable. Feeding our mind properly will help us better manage our emotions and fall on time.
Training for resistance, not just speed
Part of learning to be patient and wait means to, simultaneously, training our resistance and stamina. Being able to endure a situation when we cannot change it is a tool that can, literally, save our lives. When it is useless to be "fast", either because there is nowhere to run or running is not the right thing to do, coping with an adverse situation without succumbing to it is key to our survival. And since everything is a cycle in our existence, resisting is the product, at least in part, of having found our “pace” and nourished ourselves correctly. How many times have I wanted to run, to end something right away, knowing that the answer did not lie there! How many headaches it would have saved me, had I been patient to wait, and had the right stamina to cope with it! Probably a few.
Struggling with mental imbalances, whatever they may be, is a path of learning, consistency, patience, and devotion. Learning of methods and techniques, consistency in the practice of what has been learned, patience to wait for results, and devotion, deep devotion, towards life.
Waiting is anything but easy.
Waiting, too, is worth it.
The goal will keep getting closer, and our legs will continue to get stronger. As long as we maintain the cadence, a steady breath and pulse, and our eyes looking forward, the pain of the beginning will recede, and our own redemption will appear on the horizon. The redemption we need for whatever guilt we feel, and for whatever accusation we have shouted at ourselves in front of the mirror. This is not a path to perfection, nor a route in which we can free ourselves of accountability. It is, however, a journey towards clearer days, with lighter loads on our shoulders and, if fortune so wishes, more smiles than tears. You just have to keep up, without rushing to get there earlier.
Patience and perseverance are sisters who do not always walk together. Take them both by their hands, and let them guide you to the goal you have set for yourself.
With a bit of luck, even the wind will join you on the road, caressing your backs.
* Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde (16 October 1854 – 30 November 1900) was an Irish poet and playwright. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of the most popular playwrights in London in the early 1890s.