It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Run Like the Wind(ed)

Your chest hurts, your legs feel like they can’t go any longer, and you have trouble breathing as you gasp for air. I’m sure we can all relate to the experiences of physical fatigue that naturally comes with any strenuous exercise. Whether it’s running the mile in gym class, playing the sport you love, or maybe even climbing up a long flight of stairs, there’s something so universal that comes with bodily discomfort. For me, this discomfort would come in the form of track practices after school. In my freshman and sophomore year, I ran both winter and spring track. Practically every day after school, I’d walk up to the field and run for the next two and a half hours as a coach yelled at me to run one more lap. While my running career is now unfortunately over, it did teach me the values of resilience and having a growth mindset. Both of these attributes are essential in any area of life and are the main topic of my article today. 

The truth is that many of us continue to forget our end goals, missing the mark, and becoming deterred by the present struggle. Our aims are usually in the short term, telling ourselves we just need to get into that college, or land that leadership position, and after that, we’ll finally be satisfied. We need to be more mindful that life isn’t a sprint, but a marathon. 

Let’s say that you do get into that dream school; now what? If you’re anything like me, you don’t have your entire career and life planned out just yet. I think we all know that college doesn’t equate to a “good” life, but sometimes our intuition can deceive us. We’re blind to the fact that there remain four years left that will most likely require a high level of effort, and after that is maybe a graduate program, and then a job, and so on and so on. I don’t mean to say that life is a continual cycle of work without the luxury of comfort, but I’m pointing out that there’s much to be lived. That’s where resilience and a growth mindset come in. While there are so many external factors we can’t control, the one thing we can control is ourselves and how we react. With those two keys in mind, life can throw anything at you and you’ll be standing strong, ready to conquer the path ahead.

Ready, Set, Grow!

Before we can go any further, I want to properly define the terms ‘resilience’ and ‘growth mindset’ to establish a common ground. Resilience is the ability to persevere through obstacles, pushing through even when the going gets tough. A growth mindset is essentially what the name implies: acknowledging that every experience has something that can be learned or added to our character. Both go hand in hand and are unequivocally important as we encounter the world’s trials.

What can prevent us from being resilient or having a growth mindset is usually a larger fear of failure. As I’ve said repeatedly in previous articles, our society has taught us that failure is unacceptable whether that’s in school, work, or really any facet. Yet, failure is an essential component of learning anything new. It’s unreasonable to think that we’ll naturally ace anything we pick up the first time around. Everyone is very much human and is trying their best just the same as you.

While we can say that failure and obstacles are natural, that doesn’t make them feel all the less distressing. So the real question is how do we remain hopeful and push through challenges even when we’re at our lowest points? I present to you a growth mindset. With so many of our actions returned with a grade, a critique, or a review, it can be easy to forget the true meaning of our work. Learning isn’t meant to be a linear path to success: there are highs and lows, but with every new experience there’s a valuable moral to be taken away. This has really helped me not linger over my underachievements, because after each mistake I can point to where I went wrong and won’t make the same mistake again. Our weaknesses shouldn’t be anything to be ashamed about; all that matters is that you’re trying to get better. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m bad at a million things, but I know that no progress will be made if I keep telling myself I’m perfect. So if there’s any dream you have out there that you desperately want but right now seems insurmountable, keep going, one day it’ll pay off. Just take a moment to look at yourself honestly, plan out your steps, and the rest will take care of itself. As someone cleverly put it, it doesn’t matter if you’re bad at something in the present, all that matters is that you enjoy it. You’ll naturally work hard and get better if you really love it. 

Run Free!

Similar to many of my past teammates, I didn’t grow up running track. It simply wasn’t a very popular activity when I was younger, and I preferred games with other components like basketball and soccer. I quickly realized that track was drastically different. Your entire race is reduced down to an irrefutable number, stacked against others in an ordered list that says who’s the best and who’s the worst. There’s rarely a dispute who is faster because all you need to do is look at the times. Simply put, there’s no hiding: there’s not much luck involved, no missed calls, no other ways to get that time down, it’s just your raw individualism on full display with nothing else to pin your result on other than yourself. Track is scary because it’s one of the few sports that’s a true reflection of ourselves, and sometimes we tend to think that we’re not enough. Yet, that’s the exact same beauty that lies in it. When your efforts do eventually pay off, and you see that time at the end of the year drop from what it was when you started, you get a feeling of self-satisfaction that no one can take away from you. Look to make yourself vulnerable, you’ll be stronger for it in the long run.

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