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Keep Going (The Psyche of a 13-Mile Run)

It was a cold morning. Barely 40 degrees. As I put on my warm clothes, laced my shoes, and made sure my iPod was queued up to the perfect playlist, I knew that this day was the day for me to finally attempt half-marathon distance.

Gearing up for a long run, there’s a lot of things that swirl around in your head. Confidence builds, self-doubt mounts, energy pumps. Today wasn’t a competition with anyone but myself. It was a battle with my own mind. My own body. I’m confident. Nervous. But confident.

And so it begins.

Mile one. I’m feeling great. My legs are fresh. There’s a pep in my step. I punch the air. Left hook. Right cross. Jab. I’m doing my best Rocky Balboa impression. To anyone passing by, I’m sure I look like a complete loser. But I don’t care because I feel great. I keep going.

Mile three. I still feel good. I remember back to a year ago when a 5k seemed impossible. Today, it’s a light workout. I’m confident. The pep is still here. I mix up some slow jogging with a short, quick sprint to mix things up and keep my mind sharp. I keep going.

Mile six. I’m pretty tired. I’m not a rock-star. I have that I’m a runner on my Twitter bio, but I know that, in real life, I’ve still got a long way to go to earn that title. This is my typical stopping point. Six miles is just right. It doesn’t take up too much of my day. I can still get home in time to catch the Today Show before the 4th hour. But today, I keep going.

Mile seven. I’m on the second go-round of my regular six-mile loop. The scenery is repeating itself. The same guy who saw me doing my own version of the Rocky 4 montage is now laughing at my now sweat-soaked self as I maintain a slower, steady pace. I look more like Appollo Creed taking a beating from Drago, but I keep going.

Mile eight. “I could turn back” I tell myself. I’m going the wrong direction. Why did I decide to do this today? My feet hurt. I could turn around right now and end this. But I don’t. I keep going. 

Mile ten. Something clicks. “I don’t have much further to go” I convince myself, even though it feels like I’m nowhere near home. I’m just a 5k away. 30 minutes or less. No big deal, right? I recognize exactly where I am and how much further I have. There’s a long uphill climb in a couple minutes, but then I can coast  down a steep decline. The rest is flat. No problem. I pick up the pace a little, somehow. I’m motivated by the finish line. I keep going. 

Mile eleven. I shouldn’t have picked the pace up. I’m gassed. But I’m not going to stop. I keep trotting along. I cycle through my playlist until I find a great song. Something I know the words to. Montell Jordan’s “This is How We Do it”. Perfect. There’s something about a song that can totally change your mindset. I keep going.

Mile twelve. I’m getting a little more desperate to find the perfect song on my iPod. I’m looking down, a few feet in front of me, telling myself that it’s not that much further. Knowing that I’m only 3-4 more songs from home. I find ways to benchmark my progress. I take things in small chunks. I’m doing an awkward hand-dance to the music. I’m sucking wind, my feet are killing me, but I’m not going to stop. I keep going. 

Mile thirteen. I swing my arms harder. I look ahead. It’s a long, flat stretch to the finish line. No hills to climb, just me and the road. I start running harder and setting goals. “Just make it to that stop sign”. “Get to that big tree”. There’s something about that moment, when you can see the finish line, when you start to think about, well, everything. I think about how far I’ve come. I think about how much I’ve accomplished in the past year. I think about how awesome it will feel simply to know that I’ve accomplished this. I’m not focused on the pain. I’m not focused on the struggle. I’m simply focusing on this accomplishment. This personal milestone. I keep going.

And eventually, after one hour fifty-seven minutes and four seconds, I make it home. I cross the finish line. twelve-point-six miles in the books. I’m tired, but I feel great. I feel like I can do anything. Anything except, well, run even one more step.

Whether you’re running 12.6 miles, running a marathon, or running a business - you have to keep going. It may not be pretty, you may not break any records or set the world on fire. But if you keep going, ignoring the people laughing about your Rocky moves and hand dances, ignoring your own self-doubt, ignoring how uncomfortable the chafing may be (too much?), ignoring your fears; If you keep going, that is literally all that matters.

Keep going…

(Photo credit)

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  1. Great post! I just started running two months ago, and I’m up to 4 miles. I’ll start training for a half marathon next month.

    One of the interesting things with running is seeing how it bleeds into other ideas. The sense of accomplishment leads to more confidence in other areas of life. The need for tenacity and perseverance are universal. The energy I get through running allows me to accomplish more at work.

    Really enjoyed this post.

    • Thanks, Tyler. I agree – it does carry over to everything else and gives me a ton of energy to take on new things. You gotta’ love it. Let’s get together for a beer sometime in January!

  2. Love it Matt. I think the point is that you just have to keep going. It’s funny because when I look for people who work with me on any online project I have to look for people who are in it for the  long haul and have the marathon runners mindset. If there’s one thing the last 2 years of trying to “make it” online have taught me, it’s that you just have to keep going. 

    • Haha, I think I said “keep going” at least 10 times in this post, so yes, I hope the takeaway for those reading is that, in whatever you’re doing, the key is to keep going, to have that mindset that, even when things get tough, really tough, you’ve gotta’ keep truckin’ along.

  3. Congrats on the great experience. And i totally agree with you. Just keep going… that is all it takes.

    I’m glad to see that you find power and inspiration in everything you do Matt, that is truly awesome and something I try to apply everyday. :)

  4. Hi Matt, I know nothing of this site but long story short I stumbled on to your piece.  I just finished my longest run of 11 miles last Saturday (preparing for February 1/2)  and your mile by mile sound bite was so similar to my run!   It was comforting to read!!!