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What I Learned From Running a 50K (31 miles)

Last month I went to social media to announce my goal to run a 50K (31 miles) by the end of May. Well, I’m happy to announce that this past weekend I accomplished my 50K goal and I am now a proud member of the Ultra Marathon community. 

Running has given me so much over the last two years, and here are the six life lessons running a 50K reinforced for me:

1) Give your goal a deadline.

Ever since I first listened to David Goggins on the Rich Roll Podcast over two years ago, I knew that I wanted to run an ultra-marathon. I had a goal, but no specific date or deadline. And without a deadline, my goal to run an ultra-marathon just sat in the back of my mind. It took a specific self-imposed deadline for this goal to become a reality. I cannot stress how important this is. If you have a goal, writing it down puts it in the universe, but setting a deadline makes it a reality. Which brings me to the next lesson.

Here is the starting line (the end of the Duane Reade).

2) Embrace accountability partners.

Make no mistake about it, personal accountability is hard. We’re all so busy, distractions are endless, and there are more than enough excuses to justify backing out of the promises we make to ourselves. Therefore, we need help. We need to seek out and embrace accountability partners. Family, friends, co-workers, anyone you interact with on a daily basis. You can even go public on social media and encourage your network to check-in on your progress. It’s easy to break a promise to yourself, but it’s hard to break a promise to someone else. Especially when they’re providing unwavering support.

9am start time.

3) If having a “why” isn’t enough, you need an “I have to”.

When people seek my advice on training for a marathon, the first question I ask them is “why do you want to run a marathon?” The “why” is what gets you out of the house for a 10-mile training run. And for some people, defining a “why” is all they need. But if a “why” isn’t working for you, try going deeper by turning your “why” into an “I have to.” Why do you Have To accomplish this goal? Who are you doing it for? What will life look like if you do nothing? The “I have to” is what gets you out of the house for a training run when its 40 degrees and raining. The “I have to” is what gets you through miles 26 to 31. The “I have to” is what allows you to dig deep when pain and doubt are screaming at you.

Finishing lap 3!

4) When times are good, just be with the next step.

At mile seven, I felt amazing. The weather was perfect, there was a nice tailwind, and my legs felt strong. I could taste the finish line. But there was one problem . . . I still had 24 miles to go. I needed to ignore the finish line, respect the challenge, and just be with the next step. At mile seven I felt good, but I knew that at some point along this journey the bliss and euphoria would turn into pain and misery. While it’s important to acknowledge and celebrate life’s good times, tailwinds don’t last forever. If you expect a constant state of perfection, you risk being mentally unprepared for the challenges and detours that inevitably lie ahead. And if you never encounter life’s headwinds, well, you’re probably playing it too safe.

The (un)official course!

5) When times are bad, just be with the next step.

At mile 27, I felt terrible. The sun was intense, there was no breeze, and my legs felt like jelly. I wanted it all to be over. But before throwing in the towel, I went back to my “I have to” and told myself that all I needed to do was take one more step. That’s all, just one more step. I needed to get my mind off of the finish line. The finish line would come, but not without the next step. Even in life’s most difficult and challenging of times, we can all choose to take just one more step.

Crossing the finish line (once again, at the end of the Duane Reade)!

6) There is abundance in simplicity.

My good friend, Matt, came out to start the race with me, my wife, Lauren, and my pup, Cali, cheered me on at mile 13 and again at mile 21, and my friends, Matt and Charley, provided the support I needed to get through the last two miles. This was not an official race, there was no race director, there were no crowds, and there wasn’t a festival at the finish line, but I had everything I needed for this challenge to be a memorable experience. The race logistics were as simple as deciding the following: start at 9am, the starting line and the finishing line would be at the end of the building (right after the Duane Reade), and my standard seven-mile loop would serve as the course (4.5 laps). As we advance through our busy lives and careers, we tend to fall into the trap of more is more and risk missing out on the joy and abundance in the simple moments. In this case, having a goal, sharing it with others, and celebrating the process. This challenge didn’t have to be fancy, high-tech, or complicated to have great meaning.

The Finishing Medal

While there was no finishing medal or t-shirt, this challenge gave me a valuable gift. The gift of knowing that pain, fatigue, and uncertainty can’t stop me from achieving my goals. Also, I proved to myself that I don’t need an elaborate event to get me to a starting line. Most of the time, being an entrepreneur is pretty uneventful, and it’s up to me to create opportunities, set benchmarks, and celebrate even the small successes. Entrepreneurs need to create their own starting line. I have no doubt that I will need to tap into this knowledge and revisit these lessons as I encounter future headwinds. Setbacks, roadblocks, and discomfort are inevitable, but I have the playbook to push through and just take the next step.