A funny thing about goals is that they are easy to set, but not always easy to achieve. Sometimes a bit of luck and other external factors may play a role in the outcome of achieving or not achieving a goal. But more often than not, the most important factors still remain the hard work and maniacal focus to achieve the goals.
Running has lured me into setting all sorts of goals and humbled me trying to achieve those. I say “lured me in” because while reviewing my running log entries, reading my favourite running blog, or perusing articles from the Runner’s World magazine, I have been lured into setting some running goals for myself that turn out to be not so easy. But the whole process and the adventures that go with pursuing these goals is a wonderful and fulfilling experience. Isn’t life just that — full of wonderful and fulfilling experiences?
Reading the photo essays in the Runner’s World magazine of runners in interesting locales lured me into setting a goal of running at least a 5K distance in 100 unique places around the world. In order to make it challenging, I also decided that I can only do a total of 50 runs in the USA of which only 20 can be in New Jersey, where I live. Also, in order for the place to be counted as unique, it would have to have a local form of government or unique international jurisdiction. So for example, I cannot count runs in Brooklyn and Manhattan as two different runs, but only one run and that being a New York City run. I figured this algorithm would mean that the goal is not so easy and the pursuit would be interesting. Little did I know how challenging it would turn out to be.
Here is what happens — I travel to the same places for work. Even my vacations, at least for the time being, have almost always been to India to visit the family in some of the same cities on every visit. So once I ran London, Brussels, Tel Aviv, San Francisco, Orlando, Los Angeles, New York City in the US or Ahmedabad, Pune, Vallabh Vidhyanagar in India so many times they still count only as 10 unique places. I quickly realized this was a goal that will require some focused and determined effort and a bit of creativity. I thought about changing to a job such that the business travel destinations would be very different, but that’s not practical. I have been now trying all other crazy things in pursuit of that goal.
Once I took up a speaking engagement in Fort Lauderdale Florida so that I could run there. I took a morning flight and landed there at noon. I delivered my presentation at 1 PM, changed into running clothes at the convention center, and ran in the parking lot in cold, very windy conditions. After a shower in the convention center bathroom, I headed back to the airport to take the same day evening flight back home. Little did I anticipate that the winter storm in NJ meant all flights to NJ were getting cancelled. Quickly, all hotels in the airport vicinity filled up and as I was contemplating waiting out the night at the airport for the morning flight, luckily I found a flight out to Washington DC.
I thought that once I am closer to NJ I can always figure out other options — a train or even a four-hour taxi ride home. After landing at 3 AM in Washington DC airport, I took a taxi to the Amtrak train station, and to my luck, I got on the last scheduled train leaving early morning before what I later learned to be cancellations of all trains for almost a full day before the storm situation cleared in NJ. I made it home tired, cold, hungry, and sleep-deprived in the early hours of the day but felt I had taken one important step closer to achieving my goal of running in 100 unique places by checking off a run at the Fort Lauderdale convention center parking lot. The next adventure came during a drive to Providence, Rhode Island when driving my daughter to her high school summer camp at Brown University.
Checking off a run in Providence was easy and running through Brown University’s hilly campus with historic buildings with unique architecture nestled in the midst of majestic trees remains very memorable.
A nearly seven-hour drive back and forth meant passing through several big towns like Hartford, Connecticut and I salivated at the opportunities to run in at least two of them. And I did run them — circling around the gas station and a cafeteria at the rest stop while being looked on strangely by visitors, and another run at a seaside park of an idyllic town that you might see in postcards.
Two more unique places were checked and all these runs remain such fond memories.
My goal still remains unfinished at 56 out of 100 unique places. With no travels of any kind in 2020 due to the pandemic, I am not sure when and where the rest of the 44 places will come from. But I am determined to find a way.
Setting goals – or even being lured into setting goals – and in life in general is rewarding in many ways. Running has taught me that even when some goals turn out to be very hard to complete, you have to be persistent, be creative in finding new ways, and be maniacally focused. The rewards are truly worth savoring for life. I hope these lessons resonate with you too.
Happy running and happy living!