Celebrate conquering the little challenges

Published 9:28 am Friday, May 29, 2015

“I got lost,” I told Sera between deep breaths following a two-mile run in our new neighborhood. What was supposed to be a full 5K ended up being a mile short when I took a wrong turn and realized it was too late to turn around and right my wrong. Sera smiled and encouragingly suggested I’d get it right the next time. I grabbed my laptop from the couch and promptly pulled up Google Maps to figure out just where I had been to compare it with where I should have gone. Next time, I would be more prepared.

I had better be, I thought to myself. This new 5K route had a few surprises even when I was on the right path. Our previous neighborhood featured an actual bike trail going through the woods and a picturesque view of downtown in the distance. Our new neighborhood sits atop one of many nearby hills with neighbors grilling in the driveway who like to stare as you run past. It’s different, to say the least.

Did I mention the hills? If my newspaper column has taught you nothing in the past year and a half, may you learn this: Never run an uncharted 5K in a residential area without driving it first. You may just be surprised at how much the elevation can change when all you’ve done is mapped out your path online.

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The biggest hill, my Everest, came only five minutes into my 30-minute run. Halfway up I had to swallow my pride and walk. I’m not the most in-shape guy in the world, but I don’t remember the last time I had to stop and walk on my 5K run. Even after taking most of the winter off, I could still manage to complete the first 5K of the spring a few weeks ago without issue. Clearly this new route would take some getting used to.

A few days later I attempted again with one goal in mind: don’t get lost. I knew I wouldn’t be able to run up that monster of a hill yet, but I figured I could at least run the correct route. After a few more study-sessions with the map, I grabbed my headphones and took to the sidewalk to find myself confidently turning left and right at each designated intersection. Two blocks from home, and I was on pace to be just a few seconds slower than my fastest run so far this spring (even as I walked halfway up the hill) when it happened. My foot collided with the uneven sidewalk slab and my body flew forward while my legs attempted to prevent myself from falling. As I recovered, I glanced around and thankfully noticed none of the usual driveway-gazers were watching me make a fool of myself. Those last two blocks were completed in a job of embarrassment and shame. Next time must be better.

And it was better. I ran the correct route and didn’t stumble once throughout the trek. The hill was still unconquerable, but I embraced my success of finally completing a 5K without a disappointing report to Sera upon walking through the door. Progress was being made, and it doesn’t all need to come together right away. In fact, sometimes it is more enjoyable when it doesn’t.

It took me two more excursions to finally run up the hill without needing to walk. When I finally did it, I had one of the slowest times so far this year. I didn’t care. When I came through the garage door and told Sera I ran all the way up hill, she didn’t care what my time was either. We celebrated with something chocolate, and I prayed I’d be able to do it again.

Through running I’ve learned that sometimes it’s good not to be good at something. I know my 5K times will never be something worth writing about, but because I’m doing something I’m not awesome at, I’m able to appreciate the little victories that much more. Not getting lost is a funny thing to rejoice, but it brought me a little bit of joy on that second run in the new neighborhood. If I’m being honest, I think everyone should celebrate a little when they’ve made it through a day without tripping and falling. And when you finally accomplish the big goal, your Everest, you need to take a moment to embrace all of the little challenges you overcame to reach the big goal. And then, after celebrating with some well-deserved chocolate, set a new goal. Find a new Everest, and begin to conquer it.


Rochester resident Matt Knutson is the communications and events director for United Way of Olmsted County.