There are moments I experience in running when there’s an urge to slow down. My mind is tired of doing the work, tired of propping myself up, tired of being strong to be “healthy” or “a better version of myself”.
The truth is, I’m not actually tired but I’ve hit resistance.
I know “tired”. Tired is at the end of a 12 or 16 or 20 mile run when my feet and calves are so worn out that they feel as if they’re going to fall right off me. Tired is the last four miles of a marathon that may as well be four hundred miles. This moment that I’ve hit isn’t “tired”. Its resistance.
In that moment I want to slow down, I have a choice. When the ball of my foot hits the pavement, I can choose to ease off and slow down or I can choose to push forward and preserve the momentum I’ve built.
In that moment I don’t think about the distance that I have in front of me or the miles I’ve already run. I think about this one choice that I can make in this single moment. Slowing down is easy, but pushing forward takes only a small amount of effort. With that, the harder choice doesn’t seem so hard at all.
A couple weeks ago, I did not want to sit down for my day’s writing session. I was stuck on something with my character and could not figure out what her next move was.
That was the moment when excuses could have prevailed. “I need more time to think about this” is an excuse I’ve used in the past to get me out of it.
Instead, I made a choice. My choice was to “tinker with it and see what happens.” If I didn’t figure something out, then at least I wrote for the day.
Turns out, I had a major breakthrough, which wouldn’t have happened had I eased up and given in to the resistance. Feeling “stuck” actually meant that I was bumping up against a major breakthrough. Pushing forward was absolutely the right choice to make.
My strength and conditioning coach, Leah Taylor, once shared this story about two explorers who trekked across Antarctica. They traveled on skis for a distance of God awful hundred miles, or something close to it in harsh conditions and surrounded by nothing but snow and ice and more snow and more ice. And one of the explorers endured with a simple practice.
He put one ski in front of the other. And then he put one ski in front of the other. And then another. For God awful hundred miles. He didn’t focus on anything other than putting one ski in front of the other. Over and over for days on end.
Coach Leah told this story to illustrate how people who succeed at reaching big goals break everything down into small steps. But that explorer also made the choice every moment to push forward rather than to lay down in the snow and ice and die.
It may not seem like our stakes are so high as that. Laying down in the snow and dying is a much different outcome than slowing down on a run or not sitting down to write.
But in each there is a death. In one there is the physical death of the explorer and what he set out to accomplish. In the other, there is the death of potential of what you could be if you kept on running or if you sat down to write.
Each of those choices to push forward adds up. They add up to crossing Antarctica. They add up to miles run and pages written. They are the choices that add up to resilience and grit and creative breakthroughs.