I learned a valuable lesson running my first 10K.

Matt McWilliams 10K Race
Prepare well, know your surroundings in advance, and repeatedly rehearse what success looks like.
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As I rounded the last turn into the baseball stadium, I suddenly realized that I only had 0.1 miles left.

That is usually good news but the problem was that I thought I had another 0.5 miles left. I had a goal time of 62:30, just over 10:00 miles. I finished in 63:52. One of the biggest reasons I finished so much slower was that I was still pacing myself at the 6 mile mark when normally I would have cranked it up.

When I was training, I repeatedly ran in the same two places. I knew every inch of those two paths. I knew every mile marker, quarter-mile marker, and I knew exactly when to kick it into high gear for the finish in order to finish in my goal time.

But at the race, I did not know where I was half the time. I had failed to map out the course, and particularly failed to know the last mile. I had no vision of what it looked like to finish or where I would need to start my push to the finish line. Unlike my training, where familiarity allowed me to time everything perfectly, I was essentially running blind…and completely misinformed.

When we turned into the stadium, I thought we were running around the stadium, at least another 0.25 miles. Before that, when we turned down on street, I thought we were heading straight. And so, there I was still plodding along when I should have been pushing myself. I spent much of my mental energy trying to figure out where we were going instead of focusing on my speed.

Lily Kreitinger recently wrote a series on public speaking, which I highly suggest reading (Go to part three and it will link to the other parts). In part two, she writes about an experience dealing with an unexpected set-up:

When I arrived at the school, I expected a gym set up with tables and chairs. I had small group exercises to conduct and handouts to follow along. However, I got to the location and was a little surprised to find out that the training was being held in the school auditorium with theater-style seating and a big stage!

This situation is exactly like my race. I expected one thing and got another. It was due to a failure on my part to prepare correctly. I was unable to practice what I preach…visualizing the outcome. Whether it’s a running a race, speaking to a group, negotiating a contract, or going on a date, we must know our surroundings well. (Life lesson for all you single men: Don’t pick an unfamiliar restaurant for a first date. Pick one you’ve been to at least a few times, know the menu, where the bathrooms are, etc.)

Great lawyers are known in the industry as “furniture movers.” The day before and again in the hours before a big trial, the great attorneys will spend time in the courtroom, picturing exactly where the jury will be seated, where this table will be and that table will be, and even moving chairs and tables around as they think will best serve them and their clients. It’s a beautiful exercise in visualization and preparation.

Resolve to be a “furniture mover” in life. Prepare well, know your surroundings ahead of time, know the race route, and visualize and rehearse what success looks like over and over. You will be more confident, more relaxed, and maybe even hit your goal time.

Have you ever been surprised by a situation that you could have prepared for? What did you learn from it?

21 thoughts on “Be a Furniture Mover – Visualize and Rehearse Success

  1. Todd Liles says:

    Matt – Yes I have been surprised by those things I could have prepared for. I have learned to send the email before the meeting. Make the phone call for the person that needs it. And . . . when there is an established relationship, and standard, then don’t let the surprise of the situation be only a surprise to me. Another words, be sure to share the responsibility and delegate when appropriate.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Good stuff Todd. The email before the meeting…I used to do that and then stopped it seems. I do IM internal people or text sometimes to make sure a meeting is on but I should get back into that habit with everyone.

  2. Carol Dublin says:

    I don’t like surprises, so I do try to be prepared – what I fall down on is thinking through all the possibilities. I usually will visualize what I expect will happen but I should spend more time thinking through the bad things that could happen and how I would fix them. Great post, as usual! And congrats on your race – you still had a good time, and now incentive to do better – isn’t there another one this weekend?

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Since you are a High C that doesn’t surprise me 🙂

      Thank you for the congrats. I actually was supposed to run another race this weekend, but we have another commitment that is cutting it close. Ordered a treadmill and will soon begin training for my first half marathon next year. (I have a post on that coming up)…goal time is 1:54. That is 8:42 miles which is fast for me, but that is the goal at least.

      1. Mark Sieverkropp says:

        I’ll be honest. I have NO desire to run that far. 🙂 ill get my exercise walking up and down hills looking for deer and coyotes 😉

      2. Lily Kreitinger says:

        I get my exercise hauling 60 lbs of kids in and out of a car, up and down the stairs and then I do the sprint when they take off in church…

      3. Matt McWilliams says:

        No kidding on the kids. Holding a 22 lb. child for 30 minutes is a great bicep, shoulder, and upper back workout 🙂

      4. Matt McWilliams says:

        Did I hear a grunt, grunt just now?

    2. Lily Kreitinger says:

      Why doesn’t that surprise me? ;0)

  3. Jon Stolpe says:

    In the spring of this year, I taught a class at our church for the first time. The first week wasn’t quite what I had expected or prepared for. It through me off my game a little bit, but it also gave me great insight for teaching the remaining four weeks of the class. Now, I just started teaching another class (same subject matter) two weeks ago, and I was so much more prepared. It helped to have taught the class before, and it helped to think about how the class would go as I prepared.

    Great job on the 10k! That’s one distance that I haven’t tried yet.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      The important part is you learned from it. Doing anything for the very first time certainly leads to unexpected things that you cannot prepare for. There is always a first time. I can’t prepare for slow people in front of me or exactly where the water person will hold the water, but I could have eliminated a variable by knowing the course better. Then there would have been fewer…and less impactful surprises.

  4. Joshua Rivers says:

    I like to be spontaneous – to a fault. Years ago, we lived in Rockford, IL, and my wife mentioned something about CiCi’s (if you don’t what what that is, I feel sorry for you :). I looked it up online, and found that the closest CiCi’s was about 1 1/2 hours away. Bummer, right? Wrong. I got her in the car and we drove off! 2 1/2 hours later, we arrived at the pizza buffet. So we spent about $10 on the food and 45 minutes eating. We spent $20 on gas and over 4 hours on the road! I think I had some room for a little more preparation.

    1. Lily Kreitinger says:

      That sounds like an expensive trip to the buffet, but so much fun!! :0)

    2. Matt McWilliams says:

      OK, not sure I would drive that far for CiCis, but sometimes you gotta do that kind of thing with your wife. It’s not about the pizza (there is better) or the price (there is cheaper if you factor in the gas), but about the experience!

      But here is the question Josh: Why did it take you 2 1/2 hours to get to a buffet 1 1/2 hours away? Did someone get a little lost? 🙂

      1. Joshua Rivers says:

        I’m a guy – I never admit to getting lost 🙂 That’s one area where I should have planned more.

  5. Mark Sieverkropp says:

    Wow Matt. Great post! Mapping out where you’re going is so important! I love your race analogy. I especially liked your point about having to use a lot of energy trying to figure out were you were. I never think of that aspect when I fail to plan sufficiently.
    Thanks so much for sharing my friend!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Me neither until that happened. I didn’t realize it when it happened or I wrote it, but it is a powerful analogy. All of the thoughts running around in my head sapped my energy and made me lose focus of what was important: my time and my form.

      What do we lose focus of in real life like that?

  6. Lily Kreitinger says:

    Thanks for the pingback and the comment Matt! I really like this post. I do have to say that planning ahead and knowing the territory will definitely save you some headaches. However, there are other circumstances in which you’re thrown an unexpected element and you’re required to be creative and flexible and think on your feet. When I taught preschool and elementary school children, I definitely had a bag of tricks available. That being said, I love your analogy in terms of our life plan. How many times are we just trotting along when we should really be sprinting to get to the finish line?

    Bowlful of awesomeness!!!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Preschool, by definition, requires a lot of planning…that all goes out the window within 7 minutes. “Teaching preschool” is another way of saying “crisis manager.”

      Thanks Lily!!!

  7. Mike Holmes says:

    I agree with this wholeheartedly. Im in B to B sales…so I cant go in on a call and improvise. I have to move furniture again and again: what’s their next concern, what about this question, and etc.

  8. Kayden Curtis says:

    Two thumbs up! I don’t have much word to say and to add
    up on to this since the point was clear to me and I’ll surely take note on what
    this article had shared! XOXO:D

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