Who’s up for running outside their comfort zone?

In 2007 I entered the Auckland Half Marathon. For someone who has never found running pleasant, this seemed like a moment of sheer stupidity. Here I was making a deliberate choice to take my body to a painful place it had never been before. The motivation was a combination of getting fit and achieving a goal that had always seemed out of reach for me.

Making the effort to get out and train was not easy at first. But as I kept going, my body eventually adjusted and even craved the punishing regime. Seeing others pounding the pavements in similar fashion encouraged me to keep pushing myself, secure in the knowledge that I wasn’t the only crazy one out there!

The feeling of camaraderie intensified on race day as hundreds boarded the ferries from Downtown Auckland to Devonport, and thousands lined up for the race. My memory of the race itself is a bit of a blur; a mixture of excitement, tension, challenging hills and boring flat stretches that never seemed to end. I should also mention the thirst, exhaustion and pain. Then finally triumph as I crossed the finish line to the cheers of my family and friends. What a feeling! It was so exhilarating that I competed again the following year.

My times were never great and I didn’t continue the madness beyond two events. But I still have the t-shirts that remind me of the value of running outside my comfort zone in the pursuit of something worthwhile.

In the West we live in a world that is largely wedded to comfort. We generally embrace activities that don’t stretch us. And we go into a panic when events outside our control tip us into unfamiliar and scary places. But as I reflect on my own life, I realise that the difficult times I’ve experienced have been the making of me. When the chips are down we learn things like patience, courage, strength and perseverance.

While the thought of an easy life seems attractive, I believe that richer rewards come when we learn to ‘run’ outside our comfort zone.

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