Start today. Start where you are. Start on what matters to you. Those were my marching orders after reading Jon Acuff’s new book, Start. (You can read a full review of Start here)

Half-Marathon Running
Dare to take the first step without knowing where the second step will lead. (Click to Tweet)

I’m running a half-marathon later this year. My goal time is 2:08:00. For me, that is fast. About 1:00 per mile faster than I ran a 10k last fall. It’s going to be hard to accomplish that.

What if?

As soon as I committed to running, my thoughts drifted to:

“What if I finish last?”
“What if I don’t finish at all?”
“What if my training is disrupted by sickness, work, or…life?”

Then it occurred to me…what if all of those things happen?

Let’s say I get sick and miss two weeks of training. As a result, I begin race day having only run 11 miles on my best day. At the 11-mile mark, I have to stop and walk for a minute. Then I keep going…slowly. I finish last. I miss my goal by thirty minutes.

What if all of those things happen?

I will still have run farther (11 miles consecutively) than most people will run in their lifetime. I will have trained by running as much as twenty-two miles in a week. I will have lost a lot of weight and improved my stamina. I will be healthier, happier, and ready for the next half-marathon, where it will be much easier to hit my goal time.

Because I started.

That is what Jon reminded me to do in his book.

He reminded me to Start. To dare to take the first step without knowing where the second step will lead.

The idol of results

He reminded me to keep the end in mind (a la Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) but not to make it the only acceptable destination.

He reminded me not to worship the end or make results my idol.

I will boldly go where I have never gone before…even if I have no idea where that will actually be.

The first step

Start today. I took the first step.

Start where you are. It was cold, so I ran on our treadmill.

Start on what matters to you. Being healthier? Check. Pushing myself? Check. Raising money for a good cause (more on that later)? Check.

I may run a half-marathon in 2:08:00 or less. I may run it in 2:38:00 or more. I might limp across the finish line. Or I might blaze through like Steve Prefontaine.

Regardless of the outcome, I have started the journey. That is the hardest part…and the most significant.

Thank you Jon, for reminding me to:

Start today. Start where you are. Start on what matters to you.

What have you put off that you can START today?

16 thoughts on “Take the First Step

  1. Dan Erickson says:

    How can you have time to train for and run a marathon when you run a blog? Sometimes the blogging seems to take over my exercise time.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      I (and most runners) only do one long run per week. Right now, that is 5 miles for me. Next week 6 and so on.

      If am on the treadmill, a 6 mile run with proper warm up and cool down is only about 75 minutes. If I drive to a place to run nearby, add on 15 minutes.

      Granted, my 12+ mile runs eventually will take some time. I’ll have to sacrifice 2 hours a week somewhere…probably in yard work 🙂

      1. Running matters more than yard work.

      2. Matt McWilliams says:

        I ran 5-ish miles, did two Insanity workouts, and yard work this past week. The hardest by far was the yard work.

        I think it was my best workout.

      3. Jon Stolpe says:

        Most of my runs start before the sun comes up. It’s a great way to get some miles in without disrupting the rest of my schedule.

      4. Matt McWilliams says:

        Plus, there is nothing like rounding this one turn at a place I often run…It’s at about the 1.25 mile mark and it turns into an opening in the trees to a beautiful sunrise. For the next 1/2 mile, I watch it crest over the treeline. I stare into an orange sky and for 1/2 mile I forget the pain. I forget the sound of footsteps. I forget to breathe.

        It never gets old.

      5. Jon Stolpe says:

        My run this morning started out at 5AM in the dark. I knew it was cloudy, but the forecast wasn’t calling for any rain. The forecast was wrong. About 2 miles in, it started to mist. By 3 miles, it was raining steadily. The rain tapered back to a mist by mile 5. And when I finished at mile 6, the rain had stopped and the sky was starting to lighten. It was a good run!

      6. Carol Dublin says:

        I prefer running in the dark, but it is nice to see the sunrise. Just ran my first half marathon this weekend in the rain – what an awesome experience. Matt – hang in there and go for it!

      7. Matt McWilliams says:

        I prefer running in a light mist…of course if I only ran on perfect days, I’d rarely run.

      8. Dan Erickson says:

        I was running regularly for a period of time and ran twice per week, but shorter lengths and I’d do a long run every other weekend.

  2. Tammy Helfrich says:

    A great message that I continue to hear (and need). One step. Not twenty. One. And stop worrying about figuring out the plan. Just get in motion. Thanks for the reminder!

  3. Josh Collins says:

    Yes a very good message indeed. I continue to need this reframing. Thanks Matt!

  4. Jon Stolpe says:

    I can’t wait to hear about your first half marathon! I’ve run 4 or 5 of them over the past 9 or 10 years. It’s a great experience. You can do it!

  5. Kathy Leicester says:

    Inspiring post, Matt, thanks for persevering until you got your server issues worked out. We’re the better for it!

    Is this something we’ve never heard before? Nope.

    Is this something that surprises us? Nope.

    Is this something that is magical in its simplicity and elegant in its execution? YES.

    One of Jon’s other recommendations (echoed by the people I love and admire like Seth Godin and Dave Ramsey and Chris Hogan and….) is to surround yourself with people who call you out to be better.

    You and the rest of the commenters do that, Matt. Thank you!

    (Know one of the things that occurs to me whenever I begin a journey? “What if you DIE of shame?” That’s one of those voices that I write down, evaluate, and laugh at. But it is a voice.)

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Love this comment!

      Made me think…Shame is one of the leading killers…of dreams. Perhaps of people.

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