Happy New Year! Sunday was my annual Hot Chocolate 15K race. My friend Agnes got me into it 3 years ago. It’s a great way to start off the year – a long run (9.4 miles) followed by a nice cup of hot chocolate and an amazing natural high all day.
Well, I didn’t go this year. I woke up at 6:30am and it was POURING. San Francisco had flood warning all weekend. While the race was still on (I couldn’t believe it), I have never ran in pouring rain before and couldn’t imagine being drenched for an hour and half. I was packed but at 7am I decided not to go.
Instead I decided to drive my friend to the race and do the 15K at a gym nearby. When I pulled up into Golden Gate Park to drop her, I started to question my decision. There were thousands of runners, even kids with rain gear, bibs, ready to face the rain.
- Was I chickening out?
- Should I have gone in the rain?
- Will I feel just as good if I did it at the gym?
For the next 20 minutes, I beat myself up for not daring to run in the rain. It was not fun in my head. It was my sister in law that pulled me out of it. She texted us to see if we went to the race. I said Agnes went but I will do it in the gym. She wrote back, “Both of you are rock stars! I am still in my pjs.” Her text made me smile and I realized how silly I was being.
Just like last year, this year’s 15K race was another great learning experience. Here are 4 things I learned
- There are no perfect decisions. Questioning my own decision was counter-productive and demotivating. It’s better to appreciate that I made a decision with imperfect information and just stick to it. Any decision and action is better than no decision and no action. As I snapped out of my 20 minutes of negative thoughts, I realized this decision was a great learning opportunity. While I am not running in the race, I learned what I could do next time, by seeing my friend and all these runners show up for the race. I was sure my friend was crazy to run in it, but I was amazed at the turn out – about 5K+ runners showed up for the race.. I now have experience to make a different decision next time. I also plan to do a practice run in the rain this year to see how to deal with it first hand before I have to do it in a race.
- Stop comparing. Just do it & learn. As an overachiever, I have a bad habit of comparing myself to others, especially those more experienced or more “accomplished.” It’s unproductive and demotivating. My friend has ran in the rain before. I have not. Yet, I instinctively put myself down for not willing to go. It sounds silly now as I write it, but it happens often to many of us. How many times have you not done something because you are worried that you won’t do it as well? Everyone has to start somewhere and work their way toward their own goal. By comparing, I was not enjoying my journey at the gym initially. I am thankful my sister in law snapped me out of it quickly. This year, I will continue to work on catching myself when I compare and stop doing it.
- Say Yes in my own way. There isn’t one right way to say yes to opportunities. In the case of this race, my friend, said yes, by going to the race and I said yes, by going to the gym and run the 15K there. I can choose to value my own decision and appreciate my own effort for committing to the 15K race. I could have easily dropped her off and went home to sleep, given bad weather :-). I love to sleep when it’s pouring rain. Happiness is often about perspective. One person may be super happy by finishing last in a race just because he showed up and had the guts to do it. Another person can be disappointed in the same race by coming in second instead of first place. We always have a choice on how we view ourselves. Why not choose a perspective that motivates us to take more action.
- Whatever I commit to, I can do. Time and time again, I am learning that I can do so much more than I think I can. For this race, I didn’t train very much. I barely worked out over the holidays and my left leg was feeling off all last week. I wasn’t sure I can even last the whole 15K. I told myself, speed is not the goal. All I need to do is stay on the treadmill for 15K. If I had to walk some of it, so be it. What I was sure was I was committed to doing the full 15K at the gym. I have never ran that long on a treadmill before either. I was amazed at my body’s capacity to push me through the run. We often under-estimate our own strengths, both mentally and physically. I was so pumped by the last 5K, I even did speed runs for 30 seconds intervals at 7.5min per mile (that’s super fast for me). It was exhilarating to witness at my own physical strengths. And I was rewarded still with a great natural high the rest of the day 🙂
At the end of the run, I was so proud of me for just doing it. I picked up Agnes from the race and we already started talking about doing the one next year plus maybe a half marathon this year. After running 3 of these in the last 3 years, I think I am finally ready to do a half marathon.. I will keep you posted.
I share this story also because I know how daunting it is to learn each of the soft skills that can help you work smarter. You have already taken a great step by researching and reading this blog and many others on the web to get tips. The next big step is taking action. You don’t have to be perfect or even good the first few times you try. The important thing is to take action and learn and then take more action. That’s the only way to improve your soft skills. This year, I hope you will
- Say yes to taking action to improve soft skills
- Say yes to working smart and living life to the fullest.
- Say yes to learning from new experiences
- Most importantly, say yes to appreciating yourself for making efforts
Happy New Year and best wishes to a fantastic 2017!
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p.s: as luck would have it, the race committee decided the day of the race to shorten the 15K course to about 10K to keep all the runner safe. I didn’t know until later that day. In my decision to run at the gym, I actually got to run the full 15K. 🙂