“What I need to start off the New Year right is a challenge!” So I thought as I decided to enter the New Year’s Day 5-miler. Now those of you who know me (why else would you be reading this blog?) know that I’ve gone much further than this in my running adventures. The reason this was a challenge is I had a title to defend.
Two years ago, on a cold icy January 1st in Erie, Pa, my brother Dave and I ran this same race to fame and glory. Yes, I took first place in my age group (30-34) and he came in a close second (remember that finishing kick Dave?). Unable to defend my title last year, I decided to come back this year and claim what is rightfully mine. I wanted that plaque!
The weather didn’t cooperate this year. Two years ago, it was cold as all Jan 1sts in Erie should be. When we lined up to start the race @ 10 am, it was 46 degrees! I was wearing shorts and a long sleeve t-shirt! The unusually balmy weather brought out a large crowd of runners. After the starting horn sounded, my chances of winning faded like the backs of the crowd of thirty-somethings moving quickly over the horizon. No plaque for me.
Even though I was soundly defeated (the 3rd place finisher in my age group crossed the line 4 minutes in front of me), I was reminded of a few things about New Years Resolutions during my 40 minute trek around Presque Isle State Park and I wanted to pass them along.
- Make the proper preparations before you start. Running performance is directly effected by the amount of rest you have and the food you eat the night before. Staying up until 2 am and eating Hickory Farms cheese and beef stick are not the keys to a stellar race day. When thinking about resolutions, I need to think about where I’m starting from and make realistic goals.
- Just do it! There were a lot things keeping me from even showing up at the race. There was my lack of sleep, my intestinal issues produced by the aforementioned beef stick, no morning coffee (Mom’s pot was missing a piece), cranky children, the van was out of alignment, my fingernails were too long… You get the point. The famous Publishers Clearing House quote applies “You can’t win if you don’t play.” The same is true about resolutions.
- Don’t start too fast. At the starting line, I was way up front. That was a mistake. The actual front-runners took off down the road and though I wasn’t silly enough to chase after them, it destroyed my race plan. My first mile was way too fast and I was slower every mile after that. I do the same thing with lifestyle changes. With resolutions it’s better to have a slow start and strong finish than a beginning sprint followed by a crash and burn.
- Keep doing it. Starting out in front caused me to over-exert myself physically and be subject to the demoralization of having lots of people pass me. Physical pain and humiliation aren’t greatest encouragers. When it comes to resolutions, whether I’m trying to lose weight, read more, or grow spiritually I can always find someone improving at a faster rate. As a ran, I was reminded that resolutions help me to address my needs. They’re not for making me better than someone else and I lose the personal benefit if I stop because someone is “beating” me.
- Track your progress and celebrate the accomplishments. I love mile markers in road races because every time I pass one, I can see I’m closer to the finish. It makes me smile to see how far I’ve come. Resolutions are goals. They are the finish line that remind us of where we want to be, but every step toward that line makes us better. Keep track of how you’re changing and celebrate the fact that even the slowest forward progress is making a difference.
There were probably a few more things going through my mind during that run, but this blog is long enough already and you probably don’t want to read about my prayers of desperation. Seriously, although it may not sound that way, I really did have a good time and I can’t think of a better way to start of a New Year than running off your holiday eating sins. Out-sprinting a few people at the finish line doesn’t hurt either.
You may be wondering what I chose for my New Years resolutions. Well, since I realized on my run they’re for my personal growth, I think I’ll keep them to myself.
Happy New Year!