On goal setting and running

Gun Run 2014Here is a thought about running and goal setting. It is very seldom that I don’t have a big race coming up in the future, hence a lot of my runs are training runs for that race.

There are broadly two ways in which I often run: either just going out and enjoying the run, or by watching my watch all the time – checking my pace, heart rate etc.

But while I am almost always working towards a goal, I still want to enjoy the experience of the actual run, and to just be in the running moment. And I often find that when I am not really focusing on pace, heart rate etc and just enjoying the run (this happens mostly when I am having a slow cool-down run) I get a personal best (PB) on a segment of a route.

This week when I was running back home from St James I got a PB on the St James – Muizenberg segment, but it was meant to be a chilled and slow run after a hard race on Saturday. I have run that segment (quite literally) hundreds of times, but the time when I was just being present and not worrying about pace or goals is when I ran fastest. And at the time I genuinely thought that I was running slowly.

On Wednesday I went for an evening run up the mountain. But it was extremely hot (over 30 deg C). The uphill run was tough. I was sweating, out of breath and taking strain up the steep sections. But I was not particularly concerned because I knew the heat would play a big role in my performance. But when I analysed my data afterwards I realised that I had missed a PB on the green-belt climb by 2 seconds. Now 2 seconds is easy to catch up. In the hottest weather I have ever done that route, when I was not expecting to have a particularly good run, and I was not paying much attention I almost had my best time ever!

This happens a lot on races when I don’t have a particular target time in mind and I just go to see how the run goes. I have got a few PB’s from there. In particular the Gun Run 21k (1h53) and Hohenort 15km (1h17) come to mind.

What is the lesson here? I think that if you purely focus on your goals, and you only work towards achieving them you won’t enjoy the journey, and it may even slow you down. If you train, work hard and most importantly enjoy the experience you don’t need to worry about the goals; they will just happen.

Just get out there

Two of my interests are photography and public speaking, which is why I follow the blogs of Both Darren LaCroix, who won the world champion of public speaking in 2001, and Jared Polin (aka the Fro), who is the most amazing photographer and teacher out of Philadelphia. They both have a lot in common:

  • Both are passionate about their respective professions
  • Both have excelled in their profession
  • Both give out there knowledge freely

And they both believe that the best way to improve is to immerse yourself and practise what you want to get better at!

Darren LaCroixIn the case of Darren:

 The more you work on your ‘talent,’ the more talent you’ll be given. What you have now is more than enough. Do you bury your talents or invest them? Want to speak in front of an audience of one thousand? Knock ‘em dead at a local service club and more will be given. In my early days of comedy, I had to perform better than those around me at the open mic nights to deserve the right to perform at a professional comedy show.

Darren is well known in the speaking circles for his mantra “stage time stage time stage time “.

And now from the froFro:

Do we ever reach a point where we can be satisfied with our work and don’t need to keep pushing ourselves to learn?…there’s always something more we can learn and I believe that deep down we all know that we should keep learning, studying and progressing as photographers and as people. It’s our own work that teaches us the most. “First, KEEP SHOOTING. If you don’t shoot, you will have a tougher time learning.

There is a clear message here. Stop thinking about getting better, take action! If you want to be a better speaker, speak at every opportunity. Record yourself, evaluate and improve on your speeches. It you want to be a great photographer, take photos. Examine them with a critical eye. See what really works, and what doesn’t.

What are your passions, and what are you doing to get better? Are you sitting at home, or getting out there?

How much effort are you prepared to put into your passion?

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods

I was listening to an interview with Malcolm Gladwell recently on the Radiolab podcast in which he was speaking about the performance of Jamaican athletes when he was growing up. He made a comment that part of the reason for their performance is that they trained harder than anybody else.

When Darren la Croix won the 2001 World Championship of Public Speaking, he said that he did not want any of the other competitors to be more prepared than him – he wanted to out-prepare all of them, and he won.

When I was in school, I studied music as one of my matric subjects. In my final year, I would probably practice about 2-3 hours a day, and I was a far better pianist then than I am now. It was because I was putting in the time to prepare.

Tiger Woods is such a great golfer partly because he puts in approx 6 ½ hours training every single day, as well as about 2 ½ hours in the gym  . I have no doubt that if I put effort into golf every day for a few years, I would be a mighty fine golfer as well. Maybe not as good as Tiger Woods, but a lot better than I currently am.

According to Fortune Magazine,

“The evidence we have surveyed … does not support the [notion that] excelling is a consequence of possessing innate gifts…. that nobody is great without work…There’s no evidence of high-level performance without experience or practice.”

Ok, so the bottom line is that you can be excellent at just about anything that you choose, but you will need to put in the effort to get there.

How much effort are you prepared to put into your passion?