Baby Steps and a Lesson from Bob
By, Ryan Hall
This clip, http://youtu.be/p3JPa2mvSQ4, basically sums up the last season of training for me, and yes Bob, baby steps really do work. Less than 5 months ago I wasn’t able to run at all, and then was able to run but still with some pain. It took a lot of baby steps throughout the winter, a hefty dose of patience and a big shot to the ego some days when looking at the watch, but eventually getting fit enough to line up at the Boston Marathon pain-free was a success for me.
My slowest marathon by far, but when I look at it through the What About Bob eyes the gains I made in a relatively short time weren’t baby steps, they were giant leaps. The key to progression is to not to look at where you are at, especially when it is far from the level you have previously been, it’s to look at progress.
It’s not exciting to make baby steps. I’m a dreamer. I always envision making giant leaps in training, but this has never been the case. The key to becoming great at anything is consistency over a long period of time. So this has become my goal. Constantly train year round, not trying to hit mega-miles or crazy workouts, just simple hard, smart, training that leads to gradual improvement rather than taking big risks in training for immediate gains. Recently I’ve been running workouts on the same hilly 4 mile loop in Flagstaff, and each week it has been encouraging to see a few seconds off my average mile pace. I’m not reaching to try to run a pace I’ve run in the past, I’m focused on baby-stepping my time down from the weeks before. It’s not as exciting, it’s not a new idea or concept, it’s simple, hard consistent work that pays off in the long-term.
When I was growing up, my brothers, Dad, and I would always being doing some form of manual labor together, mostly re-doing roofs. My Dad had a saying he would remind us when we were starting to get bored of pounding nails on a hot black roof in the bright beating summer heat: “Head down, butt up” he would say. That saying is permanently ingrained in my head. I can’t say I enjoyed those hot summer days, but there was always a great deal of satisfaction when at the end of the day we would look back and see the tangible progress we made towards a new roof. Sometimes baby steps can drive you mad, it seems like you aren’t making any progress at all. One lousy shingle doesn’t make any difference on a massive roof, but the longer you keep your head down and butt up, at the end of the day you will be proud of what you’ve accomplished.
In our culture today, myself included, we are constantly looking for the quick-fix or how to fast forward the process. We are high-acheivers that want to climb the ladder faster and skip rungs if we have to, which leads to us slipping and falling down the ladder at times. I’ve learned not to rush the process, not to be greedy, but to keep my head down and baby step along towards big goals.