September 24, 2021

One Foot in Front of the Other

One foot in front of the other I frequently work with groups who want me to help them see the big picture. And having a true visionary on one’s team is necessary, because if you don’t know where you’re going, any place will do, right? But sometimes that vision is so big and so far out there that it’s hard enough to convince yourself to put one foot in front of the other. Here’s how I’ve been stepping back from the big picture and focusing on the moment in my running training—and the results.

What’s a short, overweight, bald, old guy doing running? My family asks me that a lot! I totally enjoy running. I’m not fast. I’m not graceful. But it is something I can do, and I’m told that the activity and getting my heart pumping will contribute to my longevity.

In 2012, a friend convinced me to run a 5K (I wrote about it here). It was a disaster and a great lesson. The disaster was doing a face-plant on the pavement about a quarter mile before the finish. The lesson was “Always run your race.” My running mate was half my age with legs twice as long as mine, so of course I thought I could hang with him!

I started to take running a little more seriously—with no downstream vision, just the desire to do a big run a couple of times a year and stay healthier than the average guy my age.

After a few years, some other friends suggested I was in good enough shape to attempt a mini-triathlon. Oh sure! It was 300 yards of swimming (that part I could do), 12 miles of bike riding (didn’t even own a functional bike), and three miles of running (got that part, too).

A 5K takes half an hour, more or less (working on less). This mini-triathlon would have me exercising for almost two hours. Could I do that? I bought a bike and got a couple of rides in, swam to build some endurance, and kept my running up. I was totally happy with my finish time…even had some in the tank.

OK. I can retire now…just run my 5Ks and enjoy the scenery.

Nope. My son-in-law challenges me to a half marathon. That’s 13.1 miles…over four times as long as a 5K. Probably three hours of running.

Unfortunately, I can’t let a challenge sit. Getting ready to run a half marathon, I discover on the interwebs, requires a 13-week training program for someone with my level of preparedness. I’m a busy guy…not sure how I’m going to get all this training in. So I start lengthening my runs…three miles…five miles…six miles…seven. One foot in front of the other.

Then life gets in my way. I need to travel. I need to take a week-long retreat. I don’t run. By the time I’m back in the saddle, it’s two weeks before the Rock & Roll Half in St. Louis and I’ve never even run a full 10 miles. I back out. Ouch! That hurt. I simply failed to put one foot in front of the other for a short period and boom! My goal was toast.

So what happens next? Over the Christmas holidays, my ever-so-patient son-in-law and I are visiting over some Scotch, and the next thing I know I’m entered in the GO! St. Louis half marathon in April. Now this means putting one foot in front of the other…the rest of winter! Two weeks before the event, I’d worked my way up to a 12-mile run. And that wasn’t a pretty run. As a matter of fact, I was forced to drop back to a walk on a half dozen occasions after 9 or 10 miles. And it was incredibly slow. Two weeks to go and I was beginning to have second thoughts.

Then a friend sent me to some websites that advocated distance running for beginners using a run-to-walk ratio. I’d never done this before. But I set out on the event morning running three minutes and walking one. One foot in front of the other. “The clock doesn’t know how much you walked,” I was told. And so it didn’t. My goal was to finish with around a 14:00-minute pace (yeah, that’s pretty slow…but a finish is a finish). My strategy worked. Finished with a 13:22 pace…very happy.

I can’t tell you how many times in the last few miles I told myself that all this took was putting one foot in front of the other. That’s what I could do at this moment…put that foot out front and pick up the back one.

I loved the half marathon, and I plan to do more. A full? Not sure. Time will tell. My training, however, continues. My 10K pace is now hovering around 11 minutes and change. It seems the more miles I put on—the more times I put one foot in front of the other—the more accustomed my legs get, the more efficient my lungs get, and the faster I go.

I’ve found a lot of other aspirations this works for, too.

According to Thomas Edison, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”

That “perspiration” part is keeping my feet going. How about you?

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