The Great Race | NAPO Houston

The Great Race

Finishing the race, even when you can’t see the finish line

My husband and three children are cross country runners. In the past 20 years, I have attended over 100 races, from diaper dashes to full marathons. In preparation for these races, my family of runners utilized a full arsenal of strategies including interval training, sprints, hill workouts, tempo runs, repeats, and long runs. The beauty of a cross country race is that you can train for the distance and you know exactly where the finish line is.

One of the challenges of life is that sometimes we cannot see the finish line. We may be motivated to start the race – the project, the job, the task – but without a clear and designated endpoint, we sometimes lose our interest, our nerve, and our motivation. Some of the races we run are caring for an elderly parent or an ill child. For some, the race may be a large and overwhelming home project. For others, the race may be a fitness challenge – losing 10 lbs., biking 50 miles, or hiking Kilimanjaro. In of midst of these personal races, we are all slogging through the pandemic, wondering when (and if) it will ever end. Without the finish line in our sites, how can we continue to move forward?

Here are three ideas for finishing strong and staying motivated even when the end is not in sight:

1) Focus on the short-term goal.
In 2019, I had the opportunity to chat with Olympic marathon runner, Jared Ward. A professor at my alma mater, Jared told me that when it comes to goal setting, he does not look at the long-term goals because they seem too daunting and overwhelming. Jared only focuses on one or two short-term goals such as having a good workout, passing the runner ahead of him, or hitting his PR in his upcoming race. With this short-term focus, Jared reduces stress and overwhelm and only focuses on what he reasonably can accomplish. If we take this strategy and focus on what we can do today and tomorrow, we will reduce stress and overwhelm.

2) A strong core.
About 15 years ago, I met another marathon runner, Meb Keflezighi, an Olympic silver medalist. Meb was hosting an annual Fourth of July race in Mammoth Lakes, CA where my family vacations. After this race, we asked Meb the secret to being a great runner. Meb said that to be a successful distance runner, you need to have a strong core as all physical strength emanates from this area. Are our physical, mental, and emotional cores sufficiently strong? If we are going to be successful in our personal distance races, we need to do those things that foundationally give us strength. For some, this personal strength might come from physical fitness or nutritional eating, for others it might be spiritual devotionals, and for others, it might be daily journaling. Our success in completing our personal races will rely, in part, on having a strong core.

3) Joy in the journey.
Sometimes we are so focused on the finish line that we forget to enjoy the journey. As a young mother, I used to hear other young mothers say things like, “I can’t wait until my kids are in school” or “I can’t wait until my kids leave for college.” As a mother of three, I understood the sentiment behind this perspective. But we must remember is that there is beauty in the passing of our life adventure. During a recent bike ride, I saw 5 deer crossing a berm. During another ride, I saw two armadillos. During a particularly challenging ride, I witnessed a breath-taking sunrise. Had I not looked up, I would have missed these incredible vistas and the inspiration derived from the experience.

As we pursue our personal races, especially the races where the finish line is not in sight, I hope we can all find the motivation to move forward and enjoy the journey!

Wishing you health and safety. If you have any questions or concerns, my door is always open!

Lisa Hettinger
President, NAPO Houston Chapter