A Step Backward

“You must learn to take a step back and visualize the whole piece. If you focus only on the thread given to you, you lose sight of what it can become. ”~Coleen Houck

I want you to take a step backward, right now. Yes, I’m actually serious, go ahead and do it. If you’re persistent about not doing so (which is probably most people, for a variety of reasons: you’re tired, you’re hungry, or maybe you’re thinking, “Where the heck is this guy going with this?”….), then just take a second to imagine it… Imagine yourself walking, no, running on a narrow, windy trail deep in the evergreen forests of, let’s say, Yosemite National Park, California. Smooth and relaxed as an Olympic marathoner, your legs whirl beneath you, propelling you up, over, and across the lush, rolling terrain.

The terrain, however, is unnoticed by you, for it is a constant blur; for although you’re relaxed, you are moving fast, determined to make it to Yosemite Falls by sunset. You want need to be there in time to see the spectacle; and the prospect of doing so is all that consumes your world at the moment. Light, however, is fading, and although you stride towards Falls with purpose, the sun seems to be moving to the horizon at a quicker rate. “Damn”, you mutter under your breath, increasing the tempo. And as the miles you’ve ran tip the scale to become more than what you have left to go, you can feel lactic acid beginning to be produced in your legs. This is becoming less of the training run you had planned, and increasing more like a workout. But you’re almost there! The trail marker announces that only two miles remain. Two!! As you take in this new information, and continue to fly over the trail, you fail to notice something: the sky is a radiant gold, illuminating and showcasing every rock formation and natural spectacle the valley has to offer. Only until a few minutes before reaching the Falls do you realize that the you’ve missed it, and the world is shrouded in darkness. Jogging back to your lodge nearby, cursing underneath your breath, you finally look up, and see an impeccable night, the sky full of stars.

I found myself caught in a somewhat similar situation during the my last track season. So caught up in the disappointing races of the last few weeks was I, that temporarily, I completely lost perspective on the good races this season, or how tremendously I had improved over it’s course. Only now, that the season’s over, do I realize how far I’ve came and what I’ve accomplished. What did I need to do mid-season, as my expectations grew higher with each workout and race? Take a step backward. Not literally, as I implied before, but mentally and spiritually. I needed to have taken just a fraction of the focus on my training and goals; just enough to take a breather and examine how I’ve been doing. Not only would this have made me perform better; it would have relieved a lot of unnecessary stress, and made me happier during that time as well.

So, why don’t we go back to what I had you imagine earlier, in the first paragraph? Rewind it, nearly all the way up to beginning…….”Smooth and relaxed as an Olympic mathoner, your legs whirl beneath you…”. Good, now stop and begin from there. Only this time, as you rush through the trees, actually lift you head out of tunnel vision, and take a look around you. Notice the way the golden light pierces through the trees, the way the small spring aside your dirt path gurgles, and when there’s a parting in the trees, take in the sight of one of the most amazingly beautiful places on earth. As the sky completes its daily transformation to night while you run along, focus not that you’ve missed your primary goal of making it to the Falls by sunset, but on the fact that this is SO much better than where you were running a few months earlier. And as you run by the falls, on the way back to your lodge, you stop for a moment, and turn, stepping back in the direction you’ve came. And then, without hesitation, you race off to run a few extra miles, just for fun. Because, you’ve realized that although you didn’t get to run by Yosemite Falls during sunset, you’re still running in Yosemite. And that’s pretty great, come to think of it.

~Noah

Thanks for reading! 🙂

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