So you want to be a runner? Go slow to go fast.
7 Habits of Highly Effective People author Stephen Covey said that “with people, fast is slow and slow is fast.” If you try to get the quickest results out of people before you know what motivates them—and before you build a relationship—it’s going to take longer than you expect to achieve your ends.
Likewise, horse whisperer Pat Parelli sagely advises us to “take the time it takes so it takes less time.” Investing time in building a foundation of trust will pay dividends down the road when challenges come up. If you rush through the beginning, you’ll be starting over again each time you hit a snag. And each time it will be harder to rebuild trust.
Are you sensing a pattern?
Take time upfront to build the foundation. With a foundation in place, and with practices in place for dealing with challenges and the unexpected, the rest of the journey proceeds more smoothly, more joyfully, and with more quality time experiencing the journey.
What does this have to do with running?
What works for building relationships with humans and horses also works for building a relationship with running—and building a relationship with yourself.
If you’re just starting to run and you want to run a marathon, good for you!
My advice: Forget about the marathon—for now. I promise you can put it back on the plate later if you want to.
Before you jump into the world of the organized race, just start running.
Listen to your body and build a foundation with your form as you start with a walk or a jog around the block. Once that feels easy, work up to a quarter mile, a half a mile, and eventually a mile.
Get really comfortable with a mile before moving on. The first mile will be with you on every longer run you ever start. Become friends with this mile. Become friends with how you feel in this mile—and know that how you feel may vary day to day. Notice what motivates you to keep going. Build the trust that you can finish this mile under many different conditions.
When this mile feels like your best friend, experiment with adding distance or speed (but not both at the same time). Build up slowly. Remember what you learned from your first mile, and keep applying it over and over again.
Even if you run slowly forever, it doesn’t matter a bit.
“Fast” is relative. By now you’ve probably realized that the speed at which you run is only one minor component of running.
You might run slowly but access inner peace quickly. You might run slowly but bring your body into better health. You might run slowly but bring your soul into greater alignment with your true purpose.
If you have distance and time goals for running, ask yourself why they’re important to you. Are you trying to prove something? If so, to whom? What makes that feel necessary? Keep asking “why” to go deeper.
What might be different if you trusted that you have nothing to prove to anyone, not even yourself?
I’m not saying don’t set your sights on a marathon. I’m not saying don’t try to run fast. I simply wish for you that you’re not trying to run far or fast for any purpose other than the sheer enjoyment it brings you. And if you start slowly, you’re much more likely to experience that joy.
It’s hard to become a runner without also becoming a more self-aware human. Becoming a runner inherently brings you closer to yourself. And all it takes to become a runner is to run. Start slow. Find your own rhythm. Let your relationship with running evolve naturally.
In running and in life, maybe you’ll sprint like a fox. Maybe you’ll stick with the turtle. Maybe you’ll go back and forth or find your rhythm somewhere in between.
Follow where your curiosity leads.
See you out there.