It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost three years since I ran my first (and so far last) marathon. The decision to participate in the 2019 Toronto Waterfront Marathon happened on a whim after I experienced my most epic running wipeout and feared my running days were over. Fortunately, outside of a swollen and scraped knee — and a bruised ego — no bones were broken. I took that as life speaking to me, that this was my time to push myself and my limits, as I signed up for the race and began a fifteen-week training program.
Why am I writing about something that happened nearly three years ago? Because the experience of training for, and running, a marathon, is an example from my life of what focus looks like and what I can accomplish when I’m focused. My goals at the time were twofold: first, finish the race and, second, cross the finish line in under four hours. And to succeed, I committed to doing whatever was necessary. I ate healthier, cutting out processed foods and sugar, and drank more water. I trained even if I didn’t feel like it, and sometimes that meant getting out the door by 4:00 am or running on no sleep once I reached my hotel in London (UK) after working the overnight flight. I ran in the rain, or when it was 27°C (feeling like 38°C or higher with the humidity). I was determined, then, to not let anything stop me from achieving my goal. And not only did I finish the race, I clocked a time of 3:49:18. The added bonus was that I ended up also being the fittest and leanest I’d been in my life (I dropped to 165 lbs./75 kg … something I can’t say today!).
Marathon training, perhaps because it was the biggest physical challenge I’d taken on, took me into hyperfocus mode. My life was different then, too. Different job, different schedule. Now, I’m struggling to regain that type of hyperfocus because my current ‘state of being’ is more unfocused and unproductive, more scatterbrained than ‘together’. I used to be good at figuring out how to write and create around a nine-to-five job (or at least I thought I was good at it). I used to be good at going deep into the zone when writing, holding distractions at bay (or at least I thought I was good at it).
I realize now that I was successful at running and completing the marathon because I had committed to one thing: running. Everything else took a back seat, including, to a certain degree, writing. For that fifteen-week period, running was everything.
There are twenty-four hours in a day, and when I take away my morning prep, commute times, work hours and sleep, that leaves me with roughly six hours for creativity. If I can get in to a hyperfocus mode for even a couple of those six hours, imagine what I could accomplish in the short- to long-term. I could, evidently, finish something.
And finishing something, here, is the key. Because finishing something offers reassurance that I’m on the right path. It silences doubt and builds momentum. It frees me from the comparison trap; comparison, as Brené Brown reminds us, “[…] kills creativity and joy.” Finishing something is a reminder that I’ve heeded the call of what it is I feel compelled to do in life. Finishing something reinforces the writer in me and, best of all, lets me stay in my lane.