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What Are You Doing in the Dark?

By Guest · Aug. 19, 2018 · Motivation

A black and white picture of a man running with his reflecting in the water

This morning my alarm broke the silence at 04:30am. As I hit the snooze button I picked up my phone to check the weather report and at the same time heard the wind howling outside. The August winds have definitely arrived in Johannesburg and this week they’ve brought a chill with them. I definitely felt more like turning the alarm off and settling back down into my warm bed but yesterday I made a commitment to meet a friend at her house for a run at 6:00am. I’m a person of my word so there was no way I was going to let her down. I switched on my light, wrote in my gratitude journal, said my affirmations and got up to gear up for what promised to be a chilly run. At 05:40am, after a quick breakfast, I reversed out of my driveway. My friend lives only 10 minutes away so I knew I would be on time. 

Finishing the 2019 Comrades Marathon is something that I think about every single day. As I drove through the empty streets on the way to meet my friend, I thought about what it’s going to feel like to cross the finish line in Pietermaritzburg next year. I thought too about the craziness of getting up at 04:30am on a day like today, leaving my partner in our warm bed and heading out in the cold and darkness to run. With another 10 months to go, surely one day of missing a run wouldn’t make a difference? But one day of missing a commitment or a scheduled training session turns into two days, three days and then into a habit. Before I know it I’ll be off track and I’ll never achieve my goal. I realized that my success on 09thJune 2019 depends on what I do in the dark, today and every day until then.

I’ve been training seriously for the Comrades Marathon for seven months now and under the guidance of my coach I’ve been running longer and sometimes faster as I’ve built both my strength and endurance. It’s been so rewarding for me to see and feel the results of the work I’ve been putting in both on the road and in my twice-weekly strength sessions in the gym, where my coach puts me through my paces. Three weeks ago, after two frustrating months dealing with a seemingly never-ending unidentified running injury, I took some key advice from both my coach and my chiropractor to add segmented core strength work in the form of yoga and Pilates to my training regimen in order to strengthen my core so as to reduce the impact of the current injury and avoid similar injuries recurring in the future. I work in corporate and often I am able to flexibly manage my time, but at the same time it’s difficult to commit to consistently attend classes after work as anything could, and often does, come up during the day that derails my best intentions, so my solution was to add these to my schedule first thing in the morning, meaning I’ve moved from starting two mornings a week at 04:30am to starting every morning at this time. Yes, seven days a week. It’s been a major adjustment for me and I’ve had to become really disciplined about my routines each night to set up the next morning for myself and to manage the time I get to bed in order to ensure that I get enough sleep to support the amount of training I am doing. I leave home every morning in the dark. Even though it’s a public holiday and my regular Thursday training plan wasn’t in play, today was no different.

Most people want results in life but when it comes to making the commitment, to paying the price for what they want, to actually doing the work, they become masters of negotiation.  We live in a world where everything is instantly available and often we expect our results to be the same. But the reality is that nothing worth having or achieving ever comes without the requisite exchange of work for that result. Results always mirror our efforts and many people often find themselves coming up short at the end of the day because they haven’t done the work necessary to get the result they want. Social media also makes us believe that success is instant. We see snippets of people’s lives, very often public figures, and in that moment it might appear that they are lucky or that their lives are glamorous because all we see are the results or the positive outcomes. We mistake them for overnight successes. What we don’t see posted are the many moments endured over years in the dark where they’ve consistently sacrificed and paid the price for what they’ve achieved.  No success is truly instant but nobody pays attention to the dirty parts, to the frustrations and the failures, to the moments that have built character, to the days on the sidelines when an injury has stopped them in their tracks or when things haven’t worked out exactly according to their plan. But this is exactly what makes success extraordinary – it’s the ability to keep going through the darkness until the plan does come together, to stay consistent when no-one is watching, to keep moving forward when it’s lonely, to continue to make the sacrifices that many others have simply chosen not to, in order to get the results that we want.

It’s an amazing privilege to have a goal that drives me and scares me because it’s so big. But it’s even more of a privilege to have the ability and opportunity to actively chase down that goal and to have the support of family, of friends and of a team of coaches and functional fitness and allied medical specialists who are all working to prepare me and get me ready for the hardest challenge I will ever have faced. But I also have a choice about whether I go in with a minimum work ethic mindset or if I’m prepared to do whatever it takes to smash my goal, to be willing to spend a lot of time in the dark putting in the hard yards and the preparation required before I step out into the sunlight, onto that start line ready to show not just world, but myself who I am and what I’m made of.

I stepped out of my car at 05:55am. My friend was already waiting for me outside. The cold air hit my lungs and a gust of wind almost knocked me off my feet. I definitely didn’t dress as warmly as I could have for this run, I thought. I traded my cap for a beanie, pulled the zipper on my sweater as high as it would go, pulled on my gloves and started my watch. As we set off in the darkness I had just one thought – in June next year when I’m standing on the start line, living out one of my biggest dreams, I won’t look back and regret doing what I did today.

The only question I have for you is, “What are you doing in the dark?”

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