I used to compete in triathlons and the occasional marathon and half marathon. I loved the training more than the actual competitions. I would feel confident as the morning of each race dawned, having trained specifically for each event, but one for one, after a mere five minutes, I would be asking myself, “What could I possibly have been thinking?”
Tiredness would leach through my limbs like a disease. My breathing would grow ragged and desperate. I would take a quick look around for the buoy I was swimming toward only to realize it was still a remote speck in the distance. I would contemplate the idea that I would have to complete not one but two circuits of the course, and this was just the swimming portion. It was a nightmare. Where had all my fitness and training gone?
Inevitably, I would start counting. There was nothing else left. I would count strokes. I would count breaths. I counted up; I counted down. I even counted to two or three thousand, one number at a time, during a particularly gruesome swim.
I hated every minute, but that feeling would fade over time, and I would find myself once again at the starting line of yet another competition wondering once again what I was doing there.
What did I learn from all those accumulated moments of struggle, pain, and endurance?
Did I fool myself? Was it self-hypnosis? I doubt it.
Over time I came to realize that happiness is a way of living not the goal or destination. It is a muscle that can get you through to the other side, provided one uses it. Happiness requires regular use, and there is nothing like a tall challenge to keep that happiness muscle in good shape. Training builds confidence, but when race day dawns, sometimes you just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other until you can get your groove on, and then the sun shines bright.