Never Look Back! – Running Life Lesson #10

Never Look Back! – Running Life Lesson #10

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The summer between my Cow (Junior) and Firstie (Senior) year at West Point, I had the pleasure of being assigned to Fort Hood, Texas for Cadet Leadership Training where I had the opportunity to serve as a Logistics Platoon Leader for a Supply Support Activity.  It was a wonderful few weeks in the middle of a hot summer in Texas.

One weekend, I was asked by my Company Commander to participate in a 10k race and to represent my company and potentially win the 10k race for them.  I agreed to participate and knew I had a good shot of finishing in the top 5 if not win it all.

The race started early in the morning to beat the summer heat with a healthy field of around 200 soldiers and civilians participating.  The Fort Hood Running club came out in full force and was expected to have a good showing.  When the gun went off and the race began I took my time and allowed the pack to thin out a little before I sized up my competition.  By the time I reached the third mile, it was apparent that I only had one serious competitor that I would have to work hard to beat.  He looked a little older, but was very fit and was obviously prepared to run a competitive race.  He took a sizable lead and I spent the rest of the race catching up to him.

With little over a mile to go, I noticed that he started to look back to see where I was.  I observed that his form was deteriorating and I knew I had a chance to beat him.  The more he looked back, the more confident I became.  As I closed the gap on him, I would wave at him and smile every time he looked back at me.  By the time I passed him, he was demoralized and could not match my surge.  I won the race easily and solidified a lesson I learned early in my running career, NEVER LOOK BACK!

There are three fundamental reasons that you should never look back that apply to running and in life:

1.   It breaks up your momentum and deteriorates your form.  Running, like life, is all about efficiency.  Extraneous movement takes energy and creates “drag” in your form.  When you break your form to turn your head and upper body around to see who is behind you, you sacrifice efficiency.  In life, it is never good to obsess on what is behind you and reflect on the past too much, because you lose focus on the present and what lies ahead.  If you spend too much time in the past, you will lose focus on the future and will find yourself going down the wrong path altogether!

2.   It puts you in the wrong mindset.  If you allow yourself to get distracted from your goal, which is to run as hard and as fast as you can, then you can quickly find yourself running a sub-par race.  When you allow yourself to look over your shoulder you’re giving yourself permission to take your mind off your goal, which will put you in danger of getting off your race plan.  How often do you find yourself getting off track at work or at home?  You started your day well only to end it dissatisfied because you accomplished very little.  Don’t allow yourself to look over your shoulder at the unimportant tasks in life that will only bog you down and add no value to your goals.

3.   It lets your competition know you are tired!  I was able to beat that guy because he gave me a mental edge by “tipping his hand” that he was getting tired.  By constantly looking over his shoulder to find me, he was signaling that he was not confident that he could win and was more worried about me.  In life, “your competition” is that voice in your head that says you are not good enough for the goal you have set.  By looking over your shoulder and allowing yourself to be distracted by the unimportant stuff, you are giving into the lie that you are not good enough.  Distracted people are folks that are not confident in what they are doing, that is why they allow themselves to get distracted so easily.  Stop that and stay focused!

What is important in your life right now?  Are you looking back too much or are you pressing forward with a clear vision of what you plan to accomplish in the near and long term future?

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