My ankles were throbbing, my legs were as tight as could be and my feet couldn’t take another stride. After running for 1 hour and 54 minutes, my body had had enough.
I stopped my run at 11.82 miles. I was frustrated.
Why? Because my goal was to run 13.1 miles and have my own personal half-marathon on a Saturday afternoon. I set this goal of running a half-marathon in September (Mr. Matiash Goes Running), with my eyes on achieving that distance by April. The fact that I had made such progress so quickly, I was motivated to crush my run and move on to bigger and better goals (namely a full marathon).
As I walked the rest of the way back to my apartment, trying to gain some perspective on my achievement, I walked by this man who lived nearby in our complex. I had seen the man before, but in the state that I was in, this time was different. You see, this man lives his day to day life in a wheelchair. Often on nice days, you could see this man sitting outside his apartment taking in some fresh air. It seemed to be his happy place; just enjoying the breeze and the outside world for a few minutes.
On Saturday, the day of my attempted solo half-marathon, it was about 40 degrees outside. With the wind, it probably felt closer to 30. I was as bundled up as I could be for my run, but of course sweating it up for close to 2 hours will keep you plenty warm.
As I walked by this man’s apartment, there he was, sitting outside in his wheelchair in the near freezing temperatures, just trying to enjoy some fresh air. As I mumbled and grumbled about not hitting my goal, or my calves and feet hurting, this man was happy to simply sit outside, enjoying the chill in the air. All I wanted to do was go home and stay inside for the rest of the day.
It was in that moment that my perspective shifted. How can I possibly complain about running 11.82 miles? I have legs that allow me to do such a thing. Why should I care if I didn’t reach my goal? Yes, my legs were tired, my calves cramped up, but they were still moving. As I walked by this man and we shared a smile and a head nod, he gave me the most generous gift: gratitude.
If this man could be happy just sitting outside on a day like that, you better believe I could find a way to enjoy the result of my run. I was able to get outside and move. I’m still sore from that run, but my legs are still moving. I have no other option than to be grateful.
When you get caught in a cycle of pessimism or frustration, zoom out of your life and look big picture. Your problems are likely minuscule compared to other people you may know. I feel like we often find ourselves “comparing upward” to a person that has what we want. Why can’t I have that car? Why can’t I have that job? Why can’t I run 13.1 miles like the rest of the half-marathoners of the world? Instead, we should try “comparing down” to provide evidence of why we should be grateful. “It could be worse” is a lot healthier mindset than wanting for what others (who have probably worked hard for it) have.
Be grateful for what you already have. On Saturday, something that I usually take for granted-walking and running-was erased by some much-needed perspective. Seeing that man enjoying the cold winter breeze in his wheelchair gave me a better sense of what to be grateful for. Suddenly, my legs felt lighter, my feet weren’t as sore, and the chill in the air didn’t feel so frigid.
Make perspective a practice. Understand why you should be grateful on a daily basis. It will serve you in more ways than you know.
Until next time,