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Category: Attitude

Running projects

There’s no indicator of how things will go at the start. We may have done this before, or maybe it’s more, or less complicated than the other times. We can start with lots of confidence or start without any. The path to the end will be different each time. Sometimes getting to the start line is enough for success. Other times it’s the easiest part.

We collect our tools, come up with a plan, then start. Maybe we sprint at the beginning, then settle into a rhythm until the end. Or we may start with a good rhythm, then have to vary our effort to maintain momentum. We draw energy from those around us. Or they suck the energy from us. We never know.

This is what I pondered as I ran my second half marathon of the year, and the third one in my life. I felt a little weak at the start and decided to just run without any expectations or goals. There were over 500 runners on the scenic Westport, MA course. I started near the front and settled into a decent pace. At about the 6 mile mark I started to feel confidence that I’d go the distance. I finished 22nd overall, and 4th in my age group. It was a personal record for a half marathon.

Long runs are a lot like projects. There are so many variables, that we can’t easily predict an outcome at the start. All we can do is monitor and adjust our efforts as the variables change.

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Getting to the starting line is sometimes the biggest challenge

I ran in my second half marathon last Saturday in Newport, Rhode Island. I was 86th in a field of 817 runners. They awarded medals to the top 3 in each age group. I was in 4th place for my age group. But that’s not the focus of this blog post.

The race started at 8:00. I woke up at 4:15, which totally surprised our cats. They felt like failures as I left the bed ahead of them. An hour later I was in my truck for the 1.5 hour drive to the parking lot. The last shuttle to the start was leaving at 7:00. My risk management plan included time to pull off the highway in case my hydrating resulted in the need to … you get the idea. I arrived at the lot at 6:35 and boarded the shuttle. I picked up my packet, stowed my warm clothes in a pack and checked them with the organizers. I walked around, took pictures and posted them on Instagram and Facebook. Eventually they called the racers to the start.

My plan was to finish under 8 minutes per mile (or 1:45 for the whole race) and not walk at all. I didn’t get caught up in racing other people. I raced myself. My training plan and my race plan worked. I finished at 1:42.

The day before the race I was talking to a colleague who runs marathons. He said that the hardest part of race day is getting to the start line. He wasn’t lying. I think this applies to many of our goals in life.

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The importance of attitude

Saturday was a long day. I woke up early and gutted our sunroom, and worked on other home projects. After about 6 hours of this, I ran 9 miles as part of my current half marathon training plan. The 4.5 miles out was easy with the cold wind at my back. The return trip was much more challenging. When I got back home, I continued the sunroom project. At around 8:30 that night I decided to head over to the local big box building materials store to get drywall. I like going to the building supply store near closing time. It’s easier to get in and out without dealing with crowds and parking.

I asked for help loading the cart. They sent over a guy who was in his mid-60s. He was fit, fun, and didn’t complain at all. I love to talk, and also enjoy hearing other peoples’ stories. He’s retired and works to stay busy. He likes people. I thanked him for helping load the cart, and pushed the 300+ pound cart to the registers and paid.

I asked for help loading my truck. The cashier turned to an employee nearby and asked him to help me load. He grumbled that it’s not his job, and made some vague comments about the indignity of having to load a truck. He caught me off-guard, since I wasn’t expecting to have the person assume an attitude in front of me. He grimaced at me while grabbing his jacket, then followed me out. I pushed the cart to my truck. He trailed far enough behind to not feel obligated to help push.

When we got to my truck, I grabbed one side of the first sheet. He asked me how I wanted to put them in the truck – as though there was more than one option. When I explained that we’d lift the sheet off the cart and carry it to the truck, he said he had a bad back and couldn’t do much. He insisted I drag the drywall across the cart. Then he chose hand holds on the sheet opposite of mine, and then carried the sheet down the other side of the truck. Like a wing…

I felt like he was intentionally being difficult since he didn’t want to load my truck. With minimal damage, we got the first sheet in. As we started the second sheet he doubled-down on his attitude, rubbing his back and groaning. Brushing the chalk off his stylish jacket. Moving slowly. I calmly told him to go away. I then converted my anger into energy and loaded the rest of the drywall alone.

Driving home I thought about what it takes for someone to arrive in such a negative space that they choose to project an attitude instead of finding a solution. Maybe his happiness is founded in irritating others. Maybe he’s trapped in a job he doesn’t like. I’ll never know. Regardless, his attitude can’t do a lot to help his current situation.

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The waiting is the hardest part

Anticipatory stress is the worst stress. It’s generally more harmful to our health than the actual event we stress over. It keeps us from sleeping. We’re not present with our family, friends, or colleagues. Our mind is stuck in an endless loop of re-runs that deny us of peace.

Dig into the issue and identify the root cause. Confront it as soon as you can. Address the issue, not the person. Do it now.

After you confront it you can move forward without all the extra emotional baggage. Most of the time the issue will be a tempest in a teapot.

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