Lessons From Running 160km in a Single Month

I set myself a goal of running 160km in a single month. I learned a few lessons, the most pertinent being that the process is more rewarding than the goal.

Lessons From Running 160km in a Single Month

I set myself a goal of running 160km in a single month, on top of the football games I usually play. This equates to roughly 10km every other day or 4 marathons during the month.

To give some context, the most I had ever run in a single month after really pushing myself was 85km. Doubling my previous best was never going to be easy.

There were times when all I wanted to do was to give up. I started making excuses; I'm tired, I should give myself a rest day - even elite athletes need rest, why do I need to complete this arbitrary goal I have set myself anyway?

There were ups and downs, but I'm glad to have persevered and been able to complete this goal. Giving up was not an option for me as I like to follow through with what I say and achieve my goals. Maybe it's the competitive side of me coming out here.

In completing this goal I have learned a few things during the process, that I will share with you all.

  • Our bodies are stronger than we think and can endure a lot of pain - I kept running, even when every cell in my body wanted me to stop. We have to be careful here, but it holds true as a general rule.
  • The mind is stronger than the body - the mind was the only thing that kept me pushing through the pain over the last few days, even when my body had given up.
  • Consistency pays dividends in the long run - I made sure I ran every day. Some days I ran as little as 1.5km. Others, as much as 16km. Every little helps.
  • Social accountability is vital to helping us succeed - I let my circle of friends know my ambition and posted all my runs on Strava. This kept me accountable and motivated me to run, even when I didn't feel like it.
  • The process is more rewarding than the goal - this was the most pertinent lesson I learnt from running 160km in a month. I'll go into a little more detail on this point below.

The Process Is More Rewarding Than the Goal

Many people set goals of having more money, earning a promotion, winning a competition, completing a degree etc. Once they achieve their goals, they reminisce on the past. The process. They are not as happy or as satisfied as they had imagined they would be.

This is, in part because humans are terrible at predicting what makes them happy. But also because the process far is more rewarding than the goal.

In my example, once I had completed my 160km target, I seemed to have been expecting a substantial mental reward. Fireworks. A metaphoric pat on the back. A massive sense of satisfaction or accomplishment.

However, completing the final run of the month, taking me over my 160km target felt oddly familiar - like completing any other run. I honestly couldn't notice anything being different from the end of my usual runs, except of now being aware that I have achieved a goal I had set for myself.

On reflection, the process of always challenging myself, running and remaining consistent was the reward. Not the fact that I ran 160km during the month.

The same can be said of people who finally achieve their monetary goal. Those who get the promotion they've been chasing. Those who win a competition and those who complete their degree. The feeling is not as rewarding as the mind had been anticipating. The process of working towards what they wanted to achieve was what they found satisfying. It's what made them happy.

The Alchemist: Paulo Coehlo

Paulo Coehlo's book: The Alchemist is an award-winning, short story about the journey of a young shepherd named Santiago, who had a recurring dream of finding a great treasure hidden thousands of miles away. Santiago eventually sells all his sheep and belongings, embarking on a nomadic trip to pursue his dream.

Treasure Hunting
Photo by Roman Kraft / Unsplash

Things weren't easy. He was robbed, alone, unable to speak the language and contemplated giving up to return to his previous life of being a shepherd several times. Eventually, he was made aware of the location of this treasure, being under the church he had being having the recurring dream.

He travelled the thousands of miles back to his hometown, in Spain, to dig under the church, where he had been having the dream. Sure enough, he found the treasure.

Once he had located the treasure, he wasn't as satisfied or as happy as he was expecting. He quickly realised that the process of traversing the African continent and searching for the treasure was more rewarding than the treasure he had just found. True treasure is from within.

Don't get me wrong, having goals are essential. Everyone should set goals. Working towards attaining these goals is the rewarding part. Achieving the goal itself, less so and generally leads to the "now what?" question.

It is often said that life is a journey and not a destination. This is why it's crucial always to enjoy what you're doing. It is the process.

If you're not enjoying what you're doing, you're unlikely to be as satisfied as you were expecting when you finally achieve whatever it is you were seeking. The goal itself becomes less relevant if you're enjoying the process along the way. Enjoying the process is a must, as the outcome is not guaranteed.

If you're currently working towards achieving a goal (be it seeking promotion, studying, training or entering a competition) and there are hurdles in the way, ride these ups and downs. Once you have achieved this goal, you will look back favourably on the process and reminisce.

The process is more rewarding than the outcome.

So keep going and enjoy the ride.

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