The last leg of 2020: like the last leg of marathon training

Anyone else kinda done with 2020?

Covid, and this year are taking on a familiar feeling I’ve felt before.  It’s starting to feel a lot like the last month of marathon training.  Those last few weeks when the mileage is high, the motivation wavering, everything feels heavy and hard.  You just want it to be over.  Those last few weeks of ‘taper’ – when the miles drop off significantly – are so close, and yet so far.

I just remember feeling permanently exhausted, emotional, wondering if I could keep this up to the end, just wanting to opt out and hit the carbs.

I think of Covid, lockdowns, tiers, Christmas and that vaccine just over the horizon and feel the same feeling.

So it got me thinking… I learned a lot from my one and only marathon in 2019.  What did I learn there that can help all of us in these last weeks of 2020 and first few months of winter to come?

Here are my top 6 lessons as they relate to 2020:

 1.  Support tribe

Connecting has never been more important. 

When I trained for the marathon my support tribe included different people for different needs.  There were those that literally ran with me, those that took me away from all that with cake and wine and those who I knew I could call in tears and be truly vulnerable with.  Make sure you have different support for your needs.

Gather your tribe and make sure they know how much you value their support.

Consider who you can extend support to and be one part of their tribe.

2.  Count progress only (drop the expectations)

We humans are very good at generating endless lists in our heads of what we ‘need’ to do or ‘should’ be doing.  Remember those early days of lockdown 1 when you were ‘wasting’ lockdown unless you were bread making, learned to play an instrument and taking up daily yoga?  There is so much to measure up to when the expectations are high.

In early marathon training I resisted the urge to set training expectations, and instead simply counted every single run as a positive step forward on my journey.  Your brain gets a much warmer kick from counting what you have done, and not what you haven’t.  Ironically ignoring what we ‘should’ do gives us more energy and motivation to keep going.

So drop your expectations and simply focus on what you have achieved.  Bank everything no matter how big or small.  Express gratitude for what you have managed to do amongst all this.

3.  Be ready for the days the wheels fall off

Some of us (I am one) like to think we have it all under control.  Because that feels empowering, right?  Because we see ourselves as capable, together people who can ride this out and turn every challenge into an opportunity. 

Well most of the time.

I will never forget the Sunday morning when I just decided I’d had enough.  I was meant to be running 20 miles with friends.  I’d been looking forward to a long run with company. But when the day dawned I just felt utterly depleted: physically and emotionally.  After trying to get out the house I admitted failure.

OMG, the ‘failure’ word.  

In actual fact I hadn’t failed.  Missing one long run wasn’t going to sabotage my marathon.  My body and mind were screaming for a rest.  It was an act of self love to allow myself to stop, cry and then just be… with the support of my key tribe members.

4.  Self care and self compassion

Self care means different things to different people.  To some it’s a hot bath.  To some its chocolate.  Or a bit of pampering.  Or a hug!  You know when its true self care when you start to feel your mood lift, your energy rise and that inner warm glow.  If you don’t: you may be engaging in what you think ‘should’ be self care rather than what’s right for you right now.

That takes self compassion.  Self compassion means to LISTEN to yourself, ACCEPT yourself wherever you are right now and then GIVE yourself what you really need.  It could mean going for a walk instead of hitting the biscuits.  Or reading rather than sticking on Netflix.  The key here is to choose what will NURTURE you (and not what will NUMB you).  Listen, accept, give, for YOU.

5.  Hang on outside of your comfort zone but don’t push beyond your values

We all know that growth happens outside of our comfort zone.  At the moment, just getting through the week involves surviving outside of our comfort zone.  It’s good to recognize this when you are carrying a far heavier load and juggling way more than your normal capacity.

We can feel the feeling of CHAOS.  And can end up making decisions and taking action which is outside of our VALUES.  Values are that which we hold to be important.  So take stock of where your moral compass is, and don’t let the CHAOS push you out into territory which isn’t right for you.

6.  Keep faith

And finally keep the faith.  In a vaccine?  In and end to all this?

More important than that.  Keep the faith in yourself.

You do have the strength, awareness and compassion to navigate these last weeks and months.  It’s been a long slog.  But calmer waters are ahead and we will all, at some point in the future get to re-experience that.  

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