Last week, while on a run, my watch stopped. I finished the eight miles and the time was stopped at 31:56:12. I had just finished a relaxing, free run on one of my favorite trails and I was pissed. How fast had I run? How long did it really take me? How could I possibly measure my progress? I was in the midst of an incredibly stressful few weeks and I was left feeling terribly sorry for myself. What else could go wrong, I wondered? And why was I feeling that way? Because somehow on the run, I stopped the running time on the watch. You’re right…it’s pathetic.
Sometimes, I have a tough time remembering that the journey is the destination. Worse than that, I get myself in an (arguably) obsessive battle to measure the journey. Am I running fast enough? Am I losing enough weight? Am I making enough money? If the answer to any of these questions is “no”, not only is the journey itself wrecked, but oftentimes, the destination gets so far out of sight that the entire quest implodes. The stopped watch made me lose sight of a great run. I felt fast. Why did I need the verification?
Even things like writing a blog fall victim to the need for “measurable results.” If I don’t feel as though it’s “good enough” (by some impossible standard that doesn’t even exist – after all, how many views means something is “good enough?”), I just stop writing. The irony, of course, is that when I stop writing (or stop exercising or stop eating well), I feel worse about myself and when I feel badly about myself, I write less (or eat worse or) and the spiral can have crushing effects.
Laird Hamilton, on whom I have an incredible man crush, once said that every time he gets close to achieving a goal, he moves it. For him, reaching and trying to get somewhere is far better than ever actually arriving. This way, he never feels like “he’s done.” I love the theory of this idea. The potential pitfall, however, is practicing this philosophy and then beating yourself up for never achieving anything. Double-edged sword. (Especially for someone like me.)
So, this past weekend, I decided to embark on a test, of sorts. The stopped watch thing, or more specifically, my reaction to the stopped watch thing had bothered me for days. Frankly, it was really just a continuation of my experience on my last hiking trek (apparently, I didn’t learn as much as I thought I did). As I sat on my plane flying to Las Vegas to run a half marathon, I kept wondering, why can’t I shake this need to measure everything? It was then that I decided I wouldn’t bring my watch on the run. I wouldn’t time myself. I was just going to try to enjoy the experience for what it was. After all, how often do you get to run down the Las Vegas strip at night (while, you know, not being chased by the police)?
Admittedly, this is a baby step. There are clocks along the race route. They are, however, timed to the start of the race – not for when I crossed the starting line. With thousands of people starting ahead of me, I didn’t start my race until nearly 15 minutes after the starting gun. I just ran as fast as I could – especially given the lack of sleep and early morning flight. And not once did I look at a watch. Turns out, I ran the second fastest ½ marathon I’ve ever finished. But, really? I didn’t care.
Instead, I took time to care about where I was. I took a great deal of time to check out all the neon that burned bright during the night race. I took every opportunity to give or get a high five from the people lining the streets. I slowed a bit at every band playing along the race route to sing along. I remembered some of the great work experiences I had in Vegas – like the opening of the Treasure Island. I talked to people running alongside me. I had fun. A lot of fun. For the first time in a long time, I enjoyed the experience of the journey.
And, ironically enough, I also enjoyed (yes, I admit it!) the cover band that was playing prior to the race start: The Journey Experience.
If that’s not a sign…