Looking back and moving forward

  • This was printed in November of 2013 in The Madera Tribune, a newspaper in Madera, California. This was the 27th installment of my weekly column, Mind Over Miles.

“The No. 1 reason why people quit is because they look how far they’ve got to go, not

how far they’ve come,” reads one of my favorite inspirational Instagram posts.

This challenges all of the “forget the past, focus on the future”-type quotes I often read,

but sometimes it’s beneficial to challenge traditional thinking.

When a Boston Qualifying marathon time — or any other goal, fitness-related or not —

seems out of reach, I remember to look back at how far I’ve come. It’s only then that

everything gets put into perspective and it’s easier to feel better about what lies ahead.

I ran on my school cross country and track teams from second through eleventh grade,

but I took a long hiatus while attending college, moving cross-country, and raising my

two young children.

I ran for the first time in a long time on Nov. 18, 2012, or a year ago Monday. I ran 1.53

miles that day and felt winded, shaky and tired. I looked ahead at my goal of running a

half marathon and felt discouraged. How could I ever run 13.1 miles when just a tenth of

that felt hard?

Today, 1.53 miles is not even a warm-up.

In one year I have raced two 5Ks (26:58 back in December and 21:12 last month), one

10K, one 10-miler, two half marathons (2:06 in June and 1:46 in September) and two

marathons (4:01 in August and 3:53 this month).

How’s that for looking back?

After seeing stats like that and noticing that I’ve shaved minutes off of my race times in a

matter of months, qualifying for the Boston Marathon doesn’t seem so far away.

I can look back even further, thanks to Google and online race results.

On Nov. 13, 2003 — a decade ago — I ran in the Madera High-hosted CIF Central

Section Div. II cross country championship race as a junior for Edison High School. My

time: 25:19. It’s the certified 5K (3.1 mile) course in Woodward Park that every local

cross country runner knows well.

I ran the course Monday morning — after a 3 ½ mile warm-up — in 24:03. I wonder how

fast I could’ve run it on fresh legs, and without the 5 a.m. darkness that made me slow

down out of fear of twisting an ankle.

Sure, I’d be left in the dust (both today and a decade ago) at a high school cross country

meet with a time like that, but I’m delighted to know that my 16-year-old self would be

eating the dust of my 26-year-old self — which gives me hope that my 36-year-old self

will have multiple Boston Marathons under her belt.

I’m reminded of another inspirational Instagram post: “If it doesn’t challenge you, it

doesn’t change you.”

Looking back, not just at my race times but also at my attitude and commitment level, I

realize that I only became a good runner when I wanted to become a good runner. In high

school I wasn’t focused on being an elite athlete. I ran cross country because I got to miss

school for races, I didn’t have to take P.E., I had good friends on the team, and it kept my

body looking great. I didn’t truly challenge myself.

Now I run for similar reasons — to go out of town for races, to spend time with great

friends, to keep my body looking and feeling amazing — but also for a different reason: I

want to be good at something for the sole reason that I strived to be good at it, not

because I’m naturally good at it.

I want to be able to tell my kids, “I wasn’t a good runner, but I tried hard and never gave

up and turned myself into a good runner.”

Think about how often we tell our kids or other youths, “You can do anything you set

your mind to,” and “Hard work and determination will pay off.”

It’s time to stop telling and start doing. Lead by example.

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