Turns out, I’m a liar.
Despite promising that I would throw up when I ran the Nashville Half Marathon two weeks ago, I didn’t deliver. I didn’t get sick. I didn’t almost die. In fact, I felt great.
Why? Because I paced myself. Unlike the first one I ran two years ago, I set a pace that set me up for success. I cut 23 minutes off my personal record and had a lot of energy left for the last two miles. And the secret was the pace.
Which is funny to me, because “pace” is something chasing your dream requires too. Only we tend to hate that word when it’s applied to dreaming. We want to “go all in” and “go for broke!” Pace feels like punishment, restraint like something “real dreamers” don’t do. But the truth is, if you want your dream to last, to be bigger than one generation and change the world, you have to set the right pace. Here are three things you need to do as a dreamer:
1. Plan your pace.
The hardest time to decide what your pace for a half marathon is going to be is when the starting gun goes off. The excitement of the crowd is infectious. It’s impossible not to get caught up in the energy of thousands of other people running quickly. During my first half marathon I got so lost up in the momentum that I ran a 7:45 mile when I had trained at a 10 minute mile. That first one drained me. This time, I planned the pace I was going to go before the race. And I did little things like putting slow songs on my playlist for the first 30 minutes. The pack of runners might be sprinting but I had a slow “Explosions in the Sky” song in my head and kept my decided upon pace. When you chase your dream, work your calendar before you get going too quickly. Tell yourself, “OK, in the first few months of chasing it, I’m not going to kill myself working on my dream 24 hours a day. I’m going to give my all, but I’m going to make sure I don’t burnout before the dream has really even started.”
2. Find a friend.
I ran the best race I’ve ever run because I ran with my friend Chris Thomas. Whenever I’d break the pace and start picking up speed too early, he’d encourage me to keep pace. Whenever he burst ahead and off our target time, I’d let him know. Back and forth we went, holding the pace together. When you chase your dream, ignore the “It’s me against the world myth.” You need someone who will help you keep pace.
3. Ignore the crowds.
I did a walk/run approach to this half marathon. For the first third I ran 10 minutes and walked 1 minute. To be honest, that was a little embarrassing, because every time I would walk I would have to go on the side of the course by all the spectators. The crowd saw me walking that first time, at minute 10, and said, “Come on, keep running, you can do it.” In my head I remembered someone on Twitter telling me that if I walked during the race I didn’t deserve to wear the t-shirt I got because my effort didn’t “count.” And then, as Murphy’s Law would have it, every time I saw someone I knew, it was inevitably during one of the walking breaks. I wanted to yell, “I’m walking not out of exhaustion but out of a very deliberate plan and pace.” The same thing is going to happen with your dream. When you say no to some opportunities and pace your dream for the long haul not just short term wins, there will be crowds of people that cheer you on to do the opposite. A lot of them will be genuinely encouraging you, spurning you on, urging you ahead. But they don’t know the pace you’ve set. They’re only seeing a tiny snapshot of what you’re doing, not the 50 year dream you’re working on. Ignore the crowds. Keep your pace.
I want your dream, that thing you feel called to inside to happen quickly. But the best dreams, the ones that reverberate through the ages, aren’t sprints, they’re marathons. And marathons need pace.