"Progression not perfection” - This is the running quote and everyday mantra of a dear friend of mine, and I couldn’t agree more.
This is the recipe for kicking goals, seizing the moment and moving forward.
The most successful individuals and companies have realised that "Perfection is the enemy of action”, so they choose constant progression instead.
It doesn’t translate to being sloppy in what they do or lacking effort or attention.
It means not hiding behind excuses and self-imposed “high regards" because ultimately:
- we are never going to be perfect, we are human after all
- we can always adjust things as we go and discover better ways of doing things
- while those whose opinion we respect, won’t judge us for not being perfect
- we will certainly regret not having tried because we were waiting for the perfect opportunity or for the fear of not being perfect
In running this means taking the chance, turning up, doing the hard work in training, at home, with dignity, compassion and grit.
The most successful runners I know, run almost every day, can race every other weekend. Sometimes they win and sometimes things blow up on their face.They are totally comfortable with failing, they don’t race only if things are perfect, if the sky is blue and the temperature is a perfect 15 degrees.
I have a long way to go to fully embrace this attitude.
I am obsessed by the details, in my training, in my races, in my work and in my life. And I can always find reasons why things are not good enough.
I am sure I am not the only one.
But I am slowly getting more comfortable in letting go of a utopian perfection and instead, focusing on progression.I must admit it feels good… almost like compound interest. You find yourself ahead without knowing why.
This blog is an example. Sometimes I manage to say something of value, other times not so much.
But I keep moving forward and that’s all that counts.
“Meraki” is a Greek word used to describe when you do something with all your effort, with enthusiasm, with eagerness, with complete love that you leave something of yourself in it. Your essence is forever connected to whatever it is you have done.
The Spartathlon is one of the most difficult and satisfying ultra-distance races in the world because of its unique history and background, race profile, running conditions and strict cut-off times. The 240km course to be completed in less than 36 hours, includes a 1,000 meters climb of a mountain when 150km into the race.
The field is capped to 390 runners from all around the world, who meet the rigid qualifying criteria.
The Spartathlon traces the footsteps of Pheidippides, the legendary Athenian hemerodrome (“professional-running courier” or “day-long runner”) sent from Athens to Sparta in 490 BC to seek help against the Persians in the Battle of Marathon.
Pheidippides, delivered his message to Sparta’s official only to turn around and run all the way back to Athen with their response. It was about more than running. Had Philippides failed to deliver his messages, Greece would have fallen in the hands of Persians and history would be very different.
On September 28th, I will be one of the four Australians taking part to the 2018 Spartathlon. My goal is to complete the race in the fastest time recorded by an Australian, currently set to 28h:12mins.
The #Merakiproject covers my journey, from training to race where I will leave everything on the course, km in and km out, to have a chance of kissing the foot of king Leonida in Sparta.
For the last 5 years, once a week, I have been attending a core strength class for runners from my friends at The Body Mechanic. It is a key workout of my week and when I miss the class, I do the exercises at home.
I know they help me physically.
And they make me FEEL strong.
The physical benefits of this routine are evident just by looking at my health insurance statement. In my first few years of running, I was troubled by constant injuries. Now I’m running longer and faster than ever before and I get away with general body maintenance & massage - touching wood.
Another result of the physical improvement shows in my form. My race finishing photos were the last thing you would want to put up on a wall on display. They showed my lack of coordination, my knees were falling in, shoulders dropping, head tilted on a side, totally out of whack. I looked in pain, even when I wasn’t. I am still very far from having a composed style, but at least, I don’t ask the race directors to remove my photos from their site anymore!
I am diverging from the topic… I came to realise that the second benefit of “feeling strong” is the main reason which has kept me so committed over the years. I associate the exercises, stretches and movements, to a feeling of building strength and having strength. Just by re-enacting these movements, I can almost instantaneously enter that mental state.
In other words, by changing my physiology I trigger a change in my state of mind.
This has translated in different habits and routines, I incorporate in my warm-up and at the start of a new day.
I do a few push-ups in the shower, stretch my back, 30 seconds of lunges and groin stretch. Before a race, I do step ups and squat at the start line. While running, I often do few butt kicks, extend my arms above my head, do some chest rotations. When I stop at checkpoints I may do a "Richard Simmons" for a few seconds and maintain a squat.
These movements last only few moments and don’t make any physical difference.
But the mental uplift is real. And to me, it’s all that matters.
There is an endless list of changes in physical states which I found create positive feelings. Feelings of energy, strength, readiness and self-belief. I now invoke these changes on purpose, when I need to prime myself for the day, for a hard training session, for a race or I need a pick-up.
The opposite is also true. More powerful and scary!
Just try to go out one morning and run looking 50 centimetres ahead, hunched and with a sad face. It will ruin your run and probably your day!
Maybe, like most, this is exactly how you run when you bonk. No amount of caffeine and pep-talks will get you out of that near-death feeling, if not coupled and supported with a change of physical state.
My point being that it is a self perpetuating circle. By changing our physical state, we influence our mind state. Which in turn will affect our physical state.
The body-mind connection is undeniably real and we are in control of most settings.
When all the dials are tuned to the best, we have a perfect run.
How do you put yourself in the best possibly physical state?