Running Goals: Meeting Them and Wanting More

ENVISION AND ANTICIPATE

Let’s say it is New Year’s resolution time.  In contemplating the months to come, we click on halfmarathons.net and begin to fill in the calendar.  It is a delicious feeling, much like scanning a restaurant menu and imagining with visceral delight the anticipation of indulging the taste buds.

COMMIT AND PREPARE

Let’s move on to focus on a summer goal race. We sketch out a training plan, engage a buddy or two, sign up for a class, and/or hire a coach.  We commit to months of disciplined effort and plan the rest of our schedule around long-run weekends.  Preparing for the goal race becomes a lifestyle filled with purpose and direction.

Now, let’s imagine that it is the morning after the race.  We bask in the golden glow of success. We wear the medal to work, watch the finish line video, share our victory on social media, and savor the appreciative applause that rolls in. The warm fuzzies last for a few days. Then they fade, leaving an awful empty space behind.  After a week or so, we settle into feeling the loss.

REJOICE AND REGRET

This week I am re-reading a long-time favorite book: A New Earth by Echkart Tolle.  I always find that Tolle’s discussion of ego (the sense of personal identity) has valuable insights with practical implications.  This time, I am reviewing those insights in terms of recent experience with running goals.  You might recognize the pattern.

According to Eckhart Tolle, our egoic sense of self loves “having” (things, qualities, accomplishments).  It loves the medal, the t-shirt, and the photo.  It loves the label “half-marathoner.”  It loves the numbers 39 (total halfs) and 25 (states).  On the other hand, “having” lasts such a short while.  In the blink of an eye, the ego begins looking for something it loves even more: “wanting.”

Whether it leads us to upgrade a cell phone, pursue a new relationship, or look for another goal race, we are always drawn toward something different and better. I finished the Missoula Half Marathon, overflowing with gratitude for a healed ankle.  Within a few minutes my focus shifted to wanting a faster time. We are never satisfied for long.

LOOK FOR MORE

A month later, I am still working my way through post-race blues.  First, I took the obvious step and signed up for another race. I look forward to running the Salmon, Idaho Half Marathon next month.

However, I am also looking for ways to reframe the quest. I think the pursuit of bigger, better, and more is worth questioning.  That tendency ensures that I will be dissatisfied most of the time.  I am trying to extend the gratitude for “what-is-now” before switching the channel to “what-comes-next.” I am paying more attention to the present and redirecting focus from the future.

During the five years that I chased the goal of half marathons in half the states, I had several events on the calendar at any one time. I fed my insatiable appetite for wanting. It was addictive, and I am in recovery.

I still love goals.  They are fun and motivating.  The love of wanting is real and is not about to go away.  On the other hand, I want to run for the sake of moving, not just for pursuing another  goal. I want to embrace my current pace, without the need to go faster. I want to Run 4 Joy.

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1 comment

  1. The emotion of loss far outweighs the emotion of gain.
    Sadly, doing what others can’t, won’t and don’t, loses meaning until one can not, will not or does not have the ability.

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