Targeting my first 5K race may not seem like all that much, but I don’t run. Never. Not in high school or college, not for recreation, not for exercise. I have the shoes and some of the clothes, enough to get me through the chilly spring days, but that’s it. Still, I decided to go for it and joined a beginner’s running class that gathers twice-weekly for eight weeks, all in preparation for the race.
Last week was the first class, and we ran a little bit—one minute jogging, then a minute walking, back and forth like that for a few cycles. In subsequent sessions the walking intermezzos would shorten, while the periods of running would lengthen.
Did I mention I’d never run before?
I had forgotten how long a minute could be. I had a quick flash where, in my imagination, I collapsed into a heap and was carted off to the hospital, where someone encouraged my recovery with a whoopie pie and a cup of coffee while I, smiling through my caffeine-and-sugar euphoria, assumed it was all a dream. That sounded really good after about the fourth run-walk cycle…
But I kept going—encouraged by three excellent, supportive running coaches. They reminded me (and others also just starting out; I wasn’t the only one) that we all came with goals, that we were all different, that we could achieve what we wanted and more. They’d run up next to us and remind us that we each had our own pace, telling us to hold on to that pace while we learned how to stretch our capacity for more from there. They told us to listen to our bodies and to be curious about what it’s telling us. Harder to breathe? Slow down. Sensing a cramp in my calf? Be sure you’re coming down on your feet correctly.
I began to heed their advice and listened in a way that was new for me. Since I’d never run before I became curious about my body’s responses to running: the way my lungs expanded in new ways, the way my legs muscles tensed and relaxed.
I soon turned to self-encouragement, urging a run to (at least) the next sign-post. I pushed, struggled, succeeded. I realized that, as a beginner, I had a lot to learn about this new thing called “running.” Once I set my intention to learn, to respond to my pace, and to listen to my body’s triggers and cues, I began to enjoy the experience more. It became a lesson in discovery!
When we heard the shout of “FINAL WALK!” we all slowed down and headed back to the running store where we had begun. The coaches checked in with each of us, asked us how we felt and gave us each a “well done!” for finishing that day. I headed home with a remembered appreciation for the “beginner’s mind,” that place from which we always start something new, something discoverable about ourselves.
As leaders, let’s remind ourselves to queue up our curiosity more and pay attention to our beginner’s mind. Our beginner’s mind may show us new ways of pacing ourselves as well as new ways of leading our teams. Our bodies and minds are intuitive and smart message transmitters, not just when we run, but also when we are in situations that are new or different. What is yours telling you? What new triggers emerge from your beginner’s mind?