Coaches Corner

You Learn from Doing, not Achieving

Stephanie and me hanging at the start of Leg 2 of the Marathon Relay

Last Sunday was the 2018 Pittsburgh Marathon.  A year earlier was the first time I ran in the Marathon, agreeing to complete one leg (the shortest) of the Marathon relay on a team for the gym.  In the end, I completed two legs because one of our members wanted to run with someone.  The 9+ miles I completed was the most I ever ran at one time.

This year, I signed up for the same two legs on one of our relay teams, and decided at the last minute to run a third leg with another member.  My goal was to complete three legs (16.7 miles) so that I could say I ran more than a half marathon.  I did it.  About 2.5 hours after I started, I crossed the end point of my journey . . . goal achieved!!!

However, I learned nothing from completing my goal.  All I did was cross a line.  Everything I learned happened between the time I started and the time I finished . . . “the process” of running 16.7 miles.  After all, it is the process of reaching a goal where the learning and developing takes place, not the finishing product.

There were a lot of small lessons along the way.  Things like running 16.7 miles in Vibram five finger toe shoes requires more run training than a couple of individual mile runs a month or two before hand.  Running in a large group is very motivating.  You need to eat the honey and ginseng packet more than 5 minutes before heading up a giant hill if you want any energy benefits.

More important are the BIG lessons I learned along the way:

  1.  CrossFit really does prepare you for just about anything you want to do.  My cardio never failed me.  My body never failed me.  There were some dark moments, but my body moved as much as my brain pushed it.  I’ve done nothing but CrossFit for the last nine years and I ran faster than people who specifically trained to run in the Marathon relays.
  2. A strong mind is a really powerful thing and can pull you through just about anything.  I’ve heard Josh Bridges (CrossFit Games Competitor) talk a few times about being a Navy Seal and completing Hell Week.  He always says it is mind over matter.  If you can focus only on what you are doing and forget about what needs to be done, you can keep going through just about anything.  In the middle of my last 3-4 miles, it was all mental.  My feet hurt, my knees hurt, my hips hurt, my hamstrings hurt, but I kept my head down and focused only on the next step (with a couple, “How many more miles?” to my running partner).  I focused only on what I was doing, not what needed to be done.
  3. CrossFit has trained my body to recover.  As I said above, I’ve done nothing but CrossFit for the past nine years.  I was hurting BAD on Sunday.  I was better by Monday, but took it easy with an active recovery.  By Tuesday, I PR’d a CrossFit benchmark with only a painful right foot left over from the run.  No lasting running injuries.

The point is none of these lessons were learned by crossing the line at 16.7 miles.  The confidence I gained and the knowledge I now have about how I can push myself was learned in the middle.  It is the process that teaches us what we need to know.

Goals are important, but only if achieving those goals puts us through a process that forces us to learn.  I could have stopped 5 feet short of 16.7 miles, never achieved my goal, but learned valuable lessons from the process.  An achieved goal and a failed goal have no distinction if you learned something along the way.