When I sat down towards the end of last year to take stock, and initiate a very critical approach to what I wanted my life to look like in 2021, it was apparent I needed to take ownership of those targets and goals I set for myself. These things were not just going to happen by magic. But what does taking ownership actually mean? For me, it means not just doing something, but being accountable for all of it and seeing it through to the very end, until it is complete. It means proper planning and preparation, it means careful consideration, it means learning from mistakes, being accountable for every stage of that target or goal. It also means being honest and realistic, especially if something isn’t going to plan or seems unsurmountable at the time (and if that is the case break it down into more achievable parts).
It also means making certain sacrifices. Sometimes that isn’t easy to do but for a bit of short-term ‘discomfort’ those longer term goals can be achieved. It is sometimes simpler to take the easiest route (part of our brain is actually wired to do that as part of our survival instinct). It was pretty simple to enter the 50k Ultra Trail Run I’m currently training for. Just pop onto the website, fill in my details, pay and enter it. Job done.
It isn’t job done though.
I knew that when I hit enter there was no turning back. I had committed to complete that event. I entered an ultra a few years ago, started training, got complacent, got injured, and didn’t take full ownership. It is something that has played on my mind a lot since, and I won’t be at peace with myself until I cross that finish line.
Now I have to take full ownership – those training runs won’t do themselves.
I sat down and made a plan.
How much training I needed to do. How many training sessions I needed to do each week? How long should my runs be and when? What does my recovery look like? What other training do I need to do – Strength? Speed? Core? Other? How do I mentally prepare for it? What kit am I going to need on the day? What kit do I need to do the training? What kit do I currently have? What is my nutrition plan for the race, and what does my diet currently look like? What pace do I need to be running at? Is that the pace for all my training?
By answering these simple questions I was able to formulate a basic plan, nothing more than that, just a basic plan of where I was and what I needed to put into place.
Job done? No way.
I needed to take full ownership of this now.
I decided that I needed to do my runs in the morning (so it was done and out of the way, I tick that session off and don’t need to worry about it the rest of the day) – it means getting out of bed before 6am and getting out there training no matter what the weather is doing.
In order to finish the ultra I need consistent training, not when I feel like it, but when it needs to be done, not missing a session because I feel tired, but when it needs to be done. It felt a bit of a slog to begin with but has now become part and parcel of my routine. A little short-term ‘discomfort’ to achieve a longer-term goal. I need to make certain sacrifices in order to achieve that goal, and I’m happy to do that. I’ve taken the same approach with each of the targets and goals I’ve set myself for the year and taken full ownership of each of them as well. Many of them require me to have short-term ‘discomfort’ to achieve them, that is not a problem because I’ve decided that quitting is no longer an option any more.
I’ve been pretty hard on myself when evaluating what I want to do and how I get there. What do I need to change (then change it), what adds value (then add it), what adds zero value (then get rid of it). I’ve started to fine-tune a lot more, and already I am starting to see some good results of doing so.
I need to be really mindful that complacency doesn’t set in as that can lead to laziness creeping in gradually, eventually that becomes a downwards spiral, training sessions are missed and the goal becomes unrealistic and unsurmountable, and I’m back to square one again – short-term ‘discomfort’ leads to longer term gains, so quitting is not an option.
Each and every day I think about what it would mean to cross the finish line of the ultra (and also achieving the other goals I’ve set myself). Each and every day I ask whether I am taking full ownership of my goals and targets.
Richard Guy, 47 years of age, born and grew up in London and have lived in Portsmouth since 2017.