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What Are Your Basics?

Long ago, when he was a relatively new runner, I ran an easy 12 miles with my step son-in-law (is that a real thing?), Brian. It was his first double digit run and actually his first longer than eight miles. His job was to run. My job was to make sure he made it and did so comfortably enough to be chomping at the bit for the next one. I’ll cut you to the chase, he made it.

It’s an interesting exercise when you spend a considerable amount of time paying attention to another person’s experience, watching over their  rhythm, monitoring their breathing. After eight metronome-like miles at what felt like a very easy pace, I began, out of the blue, to notice my own discomfort. My heart rate was elevated, the uphills became more than just a minor inconvenience. In that ninth mile, it dawned on me that, after a 65 mile week with three strength sessions and a tempo run, I was tired. 

As with any experience in work or life, there are three possible scenarios that exist at that point when one realizes that things aren’t going so well: 1) We can continue going through the motions and simply hang on till the end, 2) we can fold up the tent and call it a day, or 3) we can get out of our comfort zone and try something daring and yet familiar at the same time. I chose number three. The daring part, pick up the pace. The familiar part, go back to basics to do it. 

There are three basics at the very core of running: feet on ground (biomechanics), breathing (supposedly natural, right?) and overall relaxation (physical AND mental). Choosing a nice downhill, I turned my head and said, “doing okay?” Upon receiving an affirmative answer, I mentally left Brian and began focusing on the other guy on the run, me. The pace increase was slight. I lasered my consciousness on running efficiently and relaxed and went into what I call monitor mode: feet landing well and pushing off easily? Check! Hands and face relaxed? Check. Breathing under control? Check! Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Amazingly, although not really, the change was nearly immediate. We knocked off a quicker mile and I felt fantastic! The eleventh mile was even faster and considerably under our early pace and despite the big hill in mile twelve, that one was quick too. Somehow I had turned lemons into lemonade and what could have been a rough finish into a fabulous run. Back to basics, as per usual, had worked.

When faced with a difficult task, rely on what you know. Draw strength from your basics. It’s the ninth inning in the movie For Love of the Game, when Billy Chapel (aka, Kevin Costner) discovers that he has nothing left and his quest for the perfect game may be over. He lets out a deep breath, closes his eyes and says, “Okay, three more. Like I’ve done a million times.”

I rallied on the run. Billy pitched the perfect game. 

We all have it in us to reach back and rely on our basics to achieve when troubles arrive. Maybe it’s customer service or product knowledge. Maybe it’s simply relying on knowing that we can finish what we started because we have so many times before. Whatever our basics might be, they are the key to turning it all around. They are the key to high achievement.

Marcus Garvey said “If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life.” The basics breed confidence. Confidence rules!

What are your basics?