• Kathleen


How many times have you heard that the secret to success is to focus all your energy and effort on one goal?

I suppose it does work, at least to some degree. You will achieve greater progress towards the goal when you are fully focused on it than when you are dividing you attentions. However, no matter how committed you are, there is never any guarantee you will succeed. And total commitment comes with a cost.

Two years ago, I set the goal of finishing a 100km ultramarathon. I had previously finished a couple of 50km races, so I thought I was ready to make the leap. I researched training plans. I put in the miles. As I'm sure you can imagine, you need to put in a lot of miles to prepare for a 100km race. I was prepared for that. What I wasn't prepared for was the other ways in which my life would change.

To make room for the running, I had to cut back on my climbing. Sure, I was still able to climb roughly twice a week, but I was always tired at the crag, and definitely wasn't climbing at my best. If I had a climbing goal that season, it was to maintain my abilities. I wasn't prepared for just how much I would miss climbing,

Then came the changes to my social life. Pretty much the only friends I saw were the ones I ran with and the ones I climbed with. If I wasn't working, running, or climbing, all I wanted to do was crash on the couch.

And of course the cost of food. Running 50-100km a week burns a lot of calories, and those calories need to come from food. Yeah, the grocery bills got rather expensive.

Despite all the training and sacrifice, I didn't finish the race. The last few weeks leading up to the race didn't co-operate. An extended period of wildfire smoke, a nasty cold and a heavy work week meant that I arrived at the start line in an over-stressed and under-trained state. 20km in I developed IT band issues (something I deal with chronically, but which hadn't bothered me at all during the training). At the 47km mark I decided that visiting a winery sounded like a way better way to spend the evening than hobbling along painfully until I missed a cutoff time.

This isn't supposed to be a poor-me story. I don't regret my summer of training or my decision to DNF. The process of committing to a goal and staying focused taught me a lot:

  1. Commitment requires that you make space to pursue your goal. What are you prepared to give up?

  2. There are no guarantees in life. No matter how much you give, you may not achieve your goal.

  3. Love the process. When you enjoy the work required to pursue your goal as much or more than whatever it was you gave up to make space, then you have already enriched your life (whether or not you achieve your goal).