8 Surprising Lessons Running Taught Me about Goal-Setting

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I've never been a runner. In fact some of my earliest memories are of being a 4-year-old on a soccer team at the Y and strongly wanting to just skip to the post-game reward of a Capri Sun and a snack cake.

I have no memory of running an entire mile until I was at least 26. Ironically, my dad was a collegiate track runner. I've always just firmly believed I didn't get that gene.

Last year I stood at the finish line and celebrated my dad and husband when they finished the Virginia 10-Miler. It was so exciting! Over the summer I got the idea that I wanted to run the Virginia 4-Miler, an abbreviated version of the 10-miler course. It would be no easy task as on the same day I'd also be doing two performances of The Little Mermaid. But I knew with months of preparation and planning, I could do it.  I modified a running plan so I'd have no problem with the 4 mile race on a two-show day--even though, at the start, running a mile without stopping was a real challenge.

My training was empowering, thought-provoking and hard. I was away from a screen for at least an hour in the middle of my morning--a big deal for this writer/social media manager. I was forced to unplug regularly. And that time on the trail got me thinking. Over the course of the ten weeks I learned some really valuable lessons.

8 Lessons I Learned on Goal-Setting By Training for the Virginia 4-Miler

1. If you have a goal that only takes you to achieve, the odds are very much in your favor. This goal wasn't up to anyone but me. Sure, things like injuries could have prevented my goal from coming to fruition. But a goal like this one was mainly in my control. It was just me and the road.

2. A big goal broken down bit by bit is not overwhelming. Check off what you need to do that day. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Every week I simply had three days of running I had to accomplish. Whatever the plan said, I did. I just. kept. running.

3. To accomplish any goal you have to intrinsically desire to accomplish it. You can't be motivated by others. If your mom wants you to accomplish it or your boss wants you to accomplish it, that may be some incentive, but it's not going to get you across the finish line. You have to want it.

4. It's necessary to take into account other commitments and who else is affected by your goal. I knew I had to be serious about my training in order to be in good enough shape to run my race and then perform two shows in the same day. If I hadn't trained properly I might have injured myself or exhausted myself--affecting the entire performance. Remember that multiple aspects of your life are impacted by your goals.

5. When mental toughness and discipline are achieved in one area of life, it bleeds into other areas. Studies have proven that committed, disciplined runners also become disciplined in other areas of life. They eat more healthy and spend less. When you start to view yourself as someone you respect, you treat yourself better in other areas.

6. If you run in the morning you face the rest of your day already feeling like a winner. Accomplishing something right away in the morning empowers me to attack the rest of my day and expect great things to happen. I know that on days that I run I am more fully present with others  and invigorated to work with excellence.

7. It is empowering to choose your own label. I was never referred to as a "runner." Nobody ever told me I had my dad's "runner's build." But I trained and I ran a further distance than I ever anticipated that I could. In fact, I ran further. (The week before my race I ran 5 miles.) Deciding to become a runner and then doing it was pretty encouraging. What else could I decide to be or do?

8. A goal needs a specific "end by" date in order to be a goal and not just a dream. Hopes are great, but without a plan and a deadline they don't become a reality. I had to face the music on September 27, the day of the Virginia 4-Miler.

Doing anything challenging can be rewarding. C.S. Lewis said, "You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream." What lessons have you learned when you've set a goal and accomplished it?

Happy moment with Dad and Juan-Carlos after the race.
Happy moment with Dad and Juan-Carlos after the race.