The Importance of Building a Base – Running Life Lesson #5
My friend, Jack Swift and I were nearing the end of our time at West Point. It was hard to believe it, but four years had passed by and graduation was a mere months away! It is tradition, in your Firstie (Senior) year, to have another cadet write something for you in the year book, known as the Howitzer. The synopsis would appear underneath your senior photo and would be forever memorialized.
As Jack and I contemplated on what to write for each other, Jack discovered that we had run over 10,000 miles together over the many practices and training runs throughout our time together at West Point. It was a stunning revelation. Countless hours and days spent on the roads and trails in upstate New York and many other locales across the country. Several runs were during the cover of darkness in frigid mornings, along the Hudson River. We had formed a strong relationship over those hours and miles together.
Our Cross-Country team went on to place 6th in the nation for NCAA Division I in 1993. We beat Navy several times, and won our conference every year. We had several All-Americans and future Olympians rise from our team. The distance runners on our team had a motto: “Army Distance, it’s not just a sport, it’s all damn year!” Our season would start in the summer and would not end until April. We would have a few weeks off, and then would be back at it again for another long season and many miles preparing our bodies. The summer training would be spent mostly just logging the miles to “build our base.” The purpose of the base miles was to prepare our bodies and minds for the rigors of the season. Those long slow miles would get us in shape and train our body to run efficiently and compete effectively. The first few weeks were the toughest; however, by the end of the season, we were running machines and giving our competitors fits.
What I love about running is that many of the principles I applied to my running career translate to my daily life. Building a base by putting in the proper mileage early in the season is one of those lessons. Here is what I learned from this principle:
- I could tame my body and conquer my mind through repetition and practice. The beginning of the season was the hardest because my body was not used to the miles and would protest at the discipline of running every day, but over time, it became second nature. This applies to my work life. In Sales, it can be a daunting task to pick up the phone and make the necessary calls every day. When I make calls early and often each day, it eventually becomes second nature and a part of my daily routine.
- Building a base prepares my mind for success. Getting up early every morning and putting in the miles necessary for competition forced me to dig deep and ask myself why I was doing this to myself. I would think about my goals and why they were important to me. I would never have been willing to put in the time to be successful if I did not solidify why I was willing to do it. By the time the base building phase was over, I was mentally tough and prepared for whatever the competitive season had for me that year.
- It gave me confidence. Eventually the runs would get easier and I would feel stronger. The many miles of base training gave me confidence that I could compete effectively. We would have a saying before each race, “The hay is in the barn.” It would remind us that we had put in the miles and time necessary to compete. When I do the little things everyday in my work life, it gives me a similar confidence.
- When I became weary and wanted to quit, my body would always draw on the base I built many months earlier. I have found this to be true in all walks of life. If I work hard during the good times, I can draw on that fruit during the bad times. Inevitably, life gets tough. My body, mind, and spirit will draw on whatever I have programmed deep inside. If I did not put in the effort and time to properly prepare myself with good daily habits in my work and life, then I will inevitably bonk and fail.
What kind of “base” should you build everyday in your daily habits that will make you successful in your career and in life?