3 Unexpected Lessons from My 15K Race

hot chocolate run 2016Two weeks ago, I ran in a 15K race in San Francisco.  It was the Hot Chocolate Run.   I didn’t run fast nor break any records.  On the contrary, I didn’t train for it, had only two hours of sleep the night before, and almost didn’t make it to the race.   This was not like me.  This article is less about the race and more about the three lessons I unexpectedly learned along the way.

Lesson #1:  Even when we bring our worse selves, a good, inspiring environment can bring the best out of us.  

It was 7:37am when I got to the race that started at 8:20am.  I was already exhausted.  Work stress and too much tea at dinner the night before kept me tossing and turning most of the night.  Once I got there though, I felt the energy of 12K runners.

  • I saw an Asian man in his sixties in just shorts and t-shirt prepping for the run.  It was 48 degrees and I had at least 3 layers on
  • I saw a 7 years old with her mom checking in their bag, also prepping for the 15K.
  • I saw a group of women in their 50s all dressed in similar colors rallying each other for the run.

The atmosphere was electric.    I instantly woke up.   Then it hit me – the realization of how important the right environment is to our happiness and ability to achieve.   Here I am in a race I am not prepared for, but I felt awesome because I was surrounded by positive people – no judgment, no politics, just 12K people with one shared aspiration, and strangers who were cheering me on.

The opposite is also true in our work.  I can try to bring my best self everyday to work, but if the culture is full of politics, criticism, poor leadership, and unhappy people, it will also bring out  the worse in me slowly.  No one can perform at their best surrounded by negativity.

While no one enjoys their work 100% of time, it is critical to work in a good work culture – one that allows me to be my best at work.   No one is perfect.  We all have our good and bad days.  A bad culture can degrade our skills even when we try to bring our best selves.  However, a good culture can bring the best out of us and keep us motivated even when we have bad days.

Lesson #2:  What I can imagine and believe, I can achieve.  I knew I didn’t train for this race.  However, I also knew I can do it.  It was my second year running it.  Last year, I ran it for the first time.  I trained diligently and even ran a 10K race a few months before just to make sure I can do a 15K.

During the week before this race, I just kept imaging running the race and finishing it.  I didn’t just hope. I completely expected it.   While I was warming up, I only focused on imaging myself running and finishing the race.  It was a gorgeous day and the route is by the ocean.  What’s not to love about this race?  All I had to do was put one foot in front of the other.

This may not be a new lesson but this race was a good reminder – don’t focus on what we don’t have.   None of us is perfect nor have all the skills.  Focus on what we can do.   We can do anything in the world as long as we can imagine and believe it can happen.    Self confidence is fundamental to success.  Believe in yourself as all you need is within you now!

Lesson #3: Re-define success and experience more!  This lesson is for all the overachievers out there like me.  We often put way too much pressure on ourselves to achieve.  It is unnecessary and unexpected lessons from 15Kunproductive stress.  I used to never do anything unless I can be at my best.  My old self would have seriously considered not coming to the race since I didn’t train nor sleep and therefore had little chance to beat my time from last year.  If I did that, I would have missed out on the amazing run I had, and the energy of 12K amazing runners of all ages, race, and abilities.  I would have missed out on that amazing post-run natural high.

Now to help myself experience more and take risks, I re-defined success.   For this race, my definition was simple – finish the race in whatever form I can.  Walk if I need to, just finish.  I knew I can do that, so anything else I achieved would be icing on the cake.  🙂

Did I finish?  Yes! and I love every minute of my 102 minutes run.   Even when my phone died at mile 7 and I didn’t have any music to motivate me, I found motivation in the crowd around me.   There was this 9 years old girl running with her dad that kicked my butt.  I could hardly keep up with them on the final hills.  I was elated when I crossed the finished line.

Life is too short to be competitive.  I now aspire to just try things and see how they go.   It’s the most freeing feeling.   I already signed up for the 2017 Hot Chocolate Run.  Maybe you want to join me.  What do you say?

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4 thoughts on “3 Unexpected Lessons from My 15K Race”

  1. The entire article is great and to the point. But, your Lesson #1 is so trure. Enviroment at work / family (or anywhere else) makes a HUGE difference and sets the tone of things to come. At work, I feel that tone is set by the uplines and some of the senior co-workers. In one of my jobs, I was fortunate to be part of a great team and that experience was just fantastic. ‘Let’s do it’ attitude from 1 person makes all the difference and motivates everyone.

  2. Running is a metaphor for life and a teacher as well. Lei, you have nailed that here. Thank you.

    The best part is, the longer you do it, the more it teaches you. Running in races, running by yourself, running in nature, running the streets of Gao India, running through Central Park when it is 14 degrees with all the other crazies, pushing yourself for a better time, or just taking it easy–you learn from all of it.

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