Set Goals. Achieve them. Set Bigger Goals. Achieve them too. Repeat.
On 27 July this year I completed my first ever marathon. This goal was achieved just eight months after running my first 10km race, something doctors once said would never happen because of a severe Achilles tendon injury.
Back in November 2012 the thought of running 10km on an injured leg was terrifying. The thought of ever attempting the 42kms that make up a full marathon was virtually inconceivable. However, as a good friend once said: ‘The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.’ And this is the way to achieve even seemingly insurmountable tasks, one small step at a time. By setting ourselves a series of goals we are able to make those steps bigger, and this is how, a month ago, I crossed the finish line in Orland, Sweden well within my target of four hours (3 hours 53 minutes).
But what are we supposed to do when our ultimate goal has been achieved? The answer is there is always something higher to aim for.
Having completed the marathon, some bad habits returned. It becomes all too easy for us to congratulate ourselves after achieving a major goal by becoming less disciplined. We might start doing less exercise, eating less healthily, and becoming less focused. And then we begin to see the negative effects – we put on weight, lose our fitness and find ourselves becoming irritable and lethargic. When this happens it is important to set ourselves bigger goals, for me it was a more aggressive fitness challenge.
During my marathon training I had become aware of something called the Iron Man. This really is one of the ultimate tests of endurance. The race consists of three parts: a 3.8km swim followed by a 180km cycle race and finally a marathon. The whole event has to be completed in less than 17 hours for the title of Iron Man to be awarded. However, for many like me, just making it over the finishing line would be an incredible feat.
So now, with a new physical goal in mind it was important to start preparing. I have already completed a couple of short distance triathlons, or mini Iron Man races you may call them, in order to get used to combining the three disciplines. However, there is still a long way to go since the distance I am currently doing is around 10% of the Iron Man. My swimming and cycling needs major improvement, but by using the same formula that got me through my marathon – stick to strict training plan, eat and drink well and get enough sleep – I will be able to complete the Iron Man!
The Iron Man Sweden takes place on 16 August 2014 and I am committed to it. Not only because the 500 euro registration fee has been handed over, but also because it really excites me. So no backing out now!
The next stage is to start taking bites out of the elephant. The first bite is on 31 August in Bintan, an Island off Singapore, where a longer triathlon will take place. This is followed in November by a trip to Phuket, Thailand, where the race is a mix of Olympic triathlon/half Iron Man. In May next year the goal is to complete a half Iron Man and then it is the full Iron Man competition in Sweden next August.
That leaves a year to prepare. It is important to avoid making excuses and push myself a little more each day, and then it will happen. After all, winners make goals, and achieve them… losers make excuses.
The main reason for pushing hard in terms of fitness is the fact that I refused to let the doctors be right about me never being able to walk properly, or ever run, again. Every day we should appreciate that we are able to put one foot in front of the other.
The fact that we should feel blessed when we have our health was emphasised when I feared irreparable damage to my eyes recently.
The incident occurred after a training swim in the sea at the beginning of August. Foolishly forgetting to rinse properly the anti-fog spray out of my swimming goggles, by the time I was walking out of the sea my vision had started to blur. It was getting worse by the minute and becoming painful. Unable to see anything at all I was rushed to hospital and was given treatment immediately. The pain and loss of almost complete vision lasted for two days. The cornea in one eye had been badly damaged and the other eye had been scratched. However, now three weeks later about 90 per cent vision has returned to the badly damaged eye. I hope to soon be fully recovered.
The point is that it takes the smallest of incidents to turn our lives upside down. We should use these experiences to help us focus on what is really important in life. The experience has certainly helped me to focus on training, and every time quitting feels like an option I tell myself that without my eyesight I’d probably have to give up all hope of ever competing again.
People are often at their best when faced with a crisis. The more challenges we face, the stronger we become and usually emerge more motivated and happier than we were before. The thought of losing something like our eyesight, or never being able to run again, is terrifying. However, when we come through such experiences, we should be grateful and celebrate by working harder the achieve our goals without becoming angry or bitter towards what caused the problems in the first place, even if it was our own mistake to begin with.
I know that I am not yet ready for the Iron Man. But the most successful people always start things before they feel ready. We may feel unqualified, uncertain and unprepared. But this is what makes striving to achieve one’s goal so exciting. Winners may not have the resources or experience, but they start anyway. Winners start today by taking a bite of the elephant.