By Rachael Colacino
A few years ago I lost touch with my heart.
It happens to all of us. We get so drawn up with career and life and the business of just getting through the day that we can easily forget our passion. I had so many life and career projects underway that none gained momentum. I felt lost. It happened slowly, and came to a head when I least expected it. Losing touch with what centers you can cause some big questions that will cause big trouble if not answered. Lucky for me, people I love helped me to clarify what was engraved deep in the folds of my heart.
If you lose touch with your heart, if you start to question your path, spend time thinking about what — and who — is most important in your life. Find the chords that seem to be present in your life at the most important times. That is where your heart shows itself and can help right your ship. The same process can be used with training and with how we approach performance. How we prepare mentally and physically for races ties in neatly with how we approach the rest of our lives.
Some of the best marathon coaching advice I’ve been fortunate enough to receive are also approaches I use when I need centering around what’s most important in life. One of the best goes like this:
“Run the first 10 miles with your brain. Run the second 10 miles with your legs. And run the last 6.2 miles with your heart.”
Put another way, about the marathon and its mighty 26.2 miles: the first 10 miles is the warmup. The second 10 miles is the workout. And the last 6.2 miles is the race.
The advice rung so true because at the start of any race, whether it’s a marathon or a 5k or even a figurative race in life, it’s so easy to go out too fast, to have too much confidence, to never imagine that we might slow. It’s easy to say that you’ll take the class, or work to change careers, that you’ll schedule the trip. That’s the first 10 miles, with all its promises of novelty and heroics and unending energy. Yes, start any race or experience with enthusiasm, but don’t forget to be thoughtful, to use your brain.
A weighty goal requires planning.
The second 10 miles though, that’s where your workout begins. In a race, that’s where you may start to tire, where the miles may not feel as effortless. In life, that’s when you start to question your original motives. Why did I start this project? Why did I choose this path? Why am I stressing over this if it’s supposed to be fun? The second 10 miles requires you to use your legs, to put the strength of your training into use, and to make some real-time decisions about your path and your purpose. It requires stamina and fortitude, mentally and physically.
And then the last 6.2 miles of a marathon – that’s the part of the race requiring heart. That’s the true race of it. It’s your gut check, your heart check, a check of all your intentions and training. That’s the point in the race where you have no choice but to follow your heart because there’s no turning back. But how loudly your heart calls can also be how strongly you respond. It’s the true race, whether it’s the end of a marathon or whether is the home stretch in your goals. Your heart is what carries you across whatever finish line you’ve created. No matter the circumstances that delivered you, no matter what your journey looked like, there’s power in that final part of a race, when you’re tired and questioning. That’s where the truth in your heart speaks most clearly.