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I feel great! What a great morning! That is what I started typing a week ago, but never got a chance to continue. There was always something else going on. Not complaining, just sayin’…

Long story short, I wanted to share a new personal achievement here. That might not be a big deal for anybody else, but for me it was passing another, recently set goal on my journey to advance further with my running. The more I read about running, the more I go out and run, the more I love it. A year ago I never expected this to happen. But it does happen just as I type these words. Soon I will put on my running shoes, go out to pound through the five miles that is scheduled for today. But wanted to share that a week ago I had a little personal breakthrough and I was able to run 5 miles is less than 40 minutes.

I mean the second very serious attempt. Total number of attempts: lost count already…

It was not as great of a feeling that could compare to the moment when I crossed the finish line at my first Half Marathon, but it was definitely close. I have been trying to break the 40 minutes for a while now and I got close a couple times. Once I even finished my run in exactly 40 minutes. Is that under 40 minutes? No. So I kept trying…

And something just clicked a week ago. Actually it turned out to be a focused running with my best effort. And a few lessons that I learnt from running…again:

To be able to grow, always stretch your limits:

Recently I decided to use my 5 miles practice runs to see how long I can keep running very strong. What is means is that instead of starting out slowly and increase my pace (like on my long runs), I start out very strong and just kept pushing that strong until the end of the 5 miles. Actually I even tried to increase the pace at the end with the last drop of energy that I have left for the last mile or so. Until I started this exercise I did not realize, how “lazy” I became lately during my short runs. I just run instead of trying to run with a real effort. If I think back to recent short runs: whenever I finished them, there was no crazy sweating 10 minutes after I stopped running. There was no shortness of breath or other symptoms that would signal that I was really close to my limit. Once I started this “running as strong as I can for as long as I can” experiment, I started to have all these symptoms back again. And it did not take long before the result came.

Make every piece of effort count:

Don’t just do it to be able to say you tried. Make it an effort. On this run I was focusing on pushing myself towards my invisible finish line with every single step. I watched my movement, the way I had my feet when touching the ground, the way my arms were moving. I tried to take advantage of the momentum of every single moving body parts. Squeeze every bit of energy to move me forward. I did not let any outside distraction to alter my focus.

If you doubt something, doubt your limits:

Interesting, that about two months ago as I was getting closer and closer to my first Half Marathon race, I thought I have reached my limit in running pace: I will never be able to run for longer stretches (more than a couple of miles) faster than 9 min/mile average pace. Yet a week ago, I just finished a 5 miles long run with an average pace below 8 min/mile. Months ago I started reading about the qualification for the Boston Marathon. At that time, I remember I thought, well this is something I think I will never be able to qualify for. Right now? I feel like if I keep training with focus, I can qualify for the Boston Marathon within the next five years. That means running a Full Marathon in less than 3 hours and 10 minutes. I am still to run more than 15 miles at once for the first time in my life. But there is a huge difference now: I view the Boston Marathon qualification as an extraordinary challenge to tackle instead of an impossible task. Big difference.

Long term success requires planning and patience:

As much as I was happy for this personal achievement, I also recognize, that just going out, run as fast as I can as long as I can is not going to get me running a Half Marathon faster or being able to finish my first Marathon in 4 hours. Achieving these goals require careful planning and patient execution. Just like a Half Marathon run on its own. So far I think the best strategy is to start a bit slower, use the first few miles to get up to a comfortable pace and keep increasing the pace through the second half of the race. This is a completely different mindset, than running a shorter distance as fast as I can. Yet a short and fast run just confirmed my belief. Another great lesson learnt…

By the way do you find any similarity between the effort to run and the effort to advance in everyday life?