No matter how many miles I’ve logged, I’m still surprised by how hard running can be. Heavy legs. Fried brain. In completely over my head. I’ve been running over half my life. You’d think I’d be better at this by now, but I’m making it up as I go.
Some miles are a struggle. I hit the mother of all walls during my last marathon, but I’m no stranger to fatigue on even a basic training run. Quitting isn’t even always an option — not because I’m proud, but because I’m practical. If I hit a wall on the trail, I still have to make my way home.
Imagining the full distance is too daunting, so I shorten my gaze. I can’t see finish line, but I can see that lamp post. I imagine a lasso around the post, pulling me toward it. When I reach my goal, I set a new one. Just run to that stop sign, then run to that tree. Pull yourself toward the fire hydrant, then to the mailbox. Other runners pass me with ease, but I keep pushing from one landmark to the next.
It isn’t pretty, but it keeps me going. I don’t know any other way to make progress.
Micro-goals have served me well off the road, too. I turn 30 in a few days and I’m trying not to panic. My friends are having babies and wearing white dresses and signing any number of binding legal documents. I don’t have a grand plan. I never have. Any semblance of structure comes from throwing a lasso around whatever nearby milestone I can see — move to that state, take that new job, sign on for that race, apply to that school.
I’d love to be an effortless runner just like I’d love to have a tidy, beautiful life, but that’s not reality. Running is a challenge, but we push through it. Life is a mess, but we find a way to keep going.
When you’re tired and frustrated and can hardly put one foot in front of the other, don’t quit. Find something (anything!) to work toward. It doesn’t have to be pretty or organized or linear. Just set a new goal and pull yourself slowly forward.