Making a run for it

I was tiring. I had run a strong two and a half miles, but I was struggling. I was on my high school cross country team, and I had just over a half mile to go to reach the finish line. The pack of runners that had started the race were strung out in a long line.

As we rounded a corner, there were two runners in front of me by about fifteen yards. We were in the middle of the pack and our scores would count toward our overall team score. We had been trading spots throughout the race. I was determined to catch them, boosting my team’s chances of winning. I sped up and reached the first runner. He increased his speed, keeping up with me, but couldn’t hold the pace and fell back. 

My goal wasn’t complete, I wanted to beat the second guy too. With 100 yards to go to the finish line, we were neck and neck, but I was running out of gas. My running form was falling apart, I kept tripping on the grass, and I was gasping for breath. When he sped up, I had nothing in reserve and couldn’t hold on, falling behind him. I crossed the finish line and felt disappointed in myself. I was never a top-notch distance runner. I wasn’t born with great natural ability, but I worked hard and hated when I let myself and my team down.

A running target

I had beaten the one runner, but not both. I was determined to get better. Sure enough, when we met up in our district race later in the season, I came across the same two runners and we were again bunched up at the two-mile mark. I knew I had gotten better, but I could tell they were faster too. I would speed up and they would stay right by my side. After a short while, one of them would speed up and I would stick right by his side. If I couldn’t pass them, I wasn’t letting them out of my sight. 

The three of us were catching other runners left and right. With less than three-tenths of a mile to go, my lungs were again ready to explode. It was going to be a race to the finish between the three of us. I was worried about running out of gas again, but I told myself to forget about the pain and give it everything I had, I would have plenty of time to rest up later. 

I momentarily closed my eyes and pushed up the pace. If I was going to win, I had to push it now. I had to be comfortable with the pain and, sure enough, when I looked up, I expected to see my “race buddies,” but they were both behind me. I stumbled home the winner of our small triumvirate.

In the running

When I come across challenges at work or home, I find myself thinking a lot about that race. Oh, the race is decades old and my running pace now is more like a slow plodding Clydesdale than a sleek thoroughbred, but I think about the race because it reminds of the power of having a growth mindset. 

Scientific researcher Carol Dweck coined the terms “fixed” and “growth” mindset to describe the underlying beliefs people have about learning and intelligence. Growth mindset describes a way of viewing challenges and setbacks. People who have a growth mindset believe that even if they struggle with certain skills, their abilities aren’t set in stone. They think with hard work and practice, their skills can improve over time.

I’m very much of a realist. I’m well aware of the risks and challenges, but there’s a part of me that’s an optimist too, that believes if you work hard and pick yourself up after you’ve fallen, pushing through the tough times, anything is possible. After that first race, I knew I had to change my mindset, I knew that I needed to work to get better.

I thought about everyone I would be competing against. I imagined being in that same situation again: How I would respond? How could I improve the second time around? I imagined myself catching other runners and not being the one caught. I visualized myself winning. Finally, I worked on building up my stamina and sprinting skills.

If nothing else, I believed that while I didn’t achieve my goal the first time, there was no reason I couldn’t achieve it the second time. I kept a growth mindset.


Thank you for reading. Please join in on the discussion on the HoTM site. In addition, please visit my personal blog at or follow me on Instagram at @writingfromtheheartwithbrian.

All the best, Brian.

Images by Unsplash.

25 thoughts on “Making a run for it

  1. My lungs were exploding just reading this 🙂 Loved the analogy. So much of the quality of our lives is intertwined with our attitudes and set of our sails. thoughtful post Brian! DM

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I love what Doug shared…and your post prompted a similar thought for me…the whole attitude business. Yes…it matters. Love your example of a growth mindset, Brian! 😊

      Liked by 2 people

      1. We’ve talked about upbringings in the past Vicki. I think coming from a small rural area and getting out has engrained itself in me that — to steal a line from the movie Knights Tale with Heath Ledger — you really can “change your stars.” I suspect you have some of that in you too!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

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    2. Oh, thank you DM. I love how you phrase it, the “set of our sails.” I have to remember that one. If our sails are set against the wind, we’re stuck in the water. If they’re flowing right with the wind, good things build and happen. Makes total sense, but I still fight this too many times. Ha, ha.

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  2. Thought provoking, Brian! It makes me stop and think about the places in my life where I am willing to run like the wind, and the others, where I decide that the effort isn’t worth it. Often, I’m content to to sit back and let the others pass me; at other times, I’m just in a race against myself. I guess it all depends on priorities, huh? Fixed or growth? For me, it’s check all of the above, I guess!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You bring up a great point Julia. I think it all comes down to our priorities. And frankly often, the best advice is to forget about everyone else and run against ourselves. I know I get into trouble when I play the comparison game. I just need to remember that yes improvement will come and focus on myself.


  3. I really like this, Brian: “I’m very much of a realist. I’m well aware of the risks and challenges, but there’s a part of me that’s an optimist too, that believes if you work hard and pick yourself up after you’ve fallen, pushing through the tough times, anything is possible.” I think realism sets us up for success without disappointment… with incremental improvements, than an innovative overhaul every other day.


    1. When I hear people talk about our attitudes, I sometimes feel sheepish. I have a real curmudgeon, sarcastic side of me. It sees that we still have an hour drive in front of us and recognizes the problems. But once I’m able to sit with the challenge for awhile, I then start to see the gratitude and start to think to myself, “yea, this is great, just a little bit ago, we were three hours away, now we’re just an hour or even less.” I try to be more positive, but I’m just not built that way, I have to see the realistic challenge first and then work to get to the other side. Thanks for reading!!!!

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  4. I loved this post! It reminded me so much of my years watching my daughter compete in swimming. She was a distance swimmer which is much like cross country running. She would stay at the hip of the person in the lane next to her, if that person was faster or had a time similar to hers. It’s called drafting and it uses less energy in that position. Then on the last lap she’d turn on her jets and usually win. Something else she learned was that she could only focus on herself and what she needed to do to be her best. She couldn’t control who was in the lane next to her. And in the PAC 12 she once found Missy Franklin and Katie Ledecky in the lane next to her. Her goal was not to get lapped.

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    1. That is an important revelation to tune into- the knowledge that you can only control yourself and your outcomes. The decisions to grow or improve have to come from your own priorities and no one else’s needs or wants.

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      1. “The decisions to grow or improve have to come from your own priorities and no one else’s needs or wants.” Yup, yup. I feel like I seee this all the time with myself and others. I have to want it first. I have to want to get back into shape. My wife can’t want it for me. It has to come from me.

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    2. Without knowing much of the background, I can say without a doubt, your daughter had a ton more talent than me. I was a horrible runner. Ha, ha, but I love how you described that. I always find it interesting watching swimmers who can do that (drafting) well. You’re so right about focusing on herself. I didn’t really touch on that, but I think that’s a big part of Growth Mindset. In my instance, I certainly wanted to help my team and I needed to pay attention to other runners, but when it really came down to it, I needed to focus on my own best. I needed to run my best time and not worry about the other runner’s times, otherwise, I might have been holding myself back. As for swimming against Franklin and Ledecky . . . just wow. That had to be crazy to see.

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      1. That’s it exactly. You were aware of other runners but you needed to focus on yourself. You also had to be prepare to be your best. Yes, it was fun to watch Franklin and Ledecky. My daughter is 5′ 9″ but she looked like a little girl standing next to either one of them! They are tall and strong!

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      2. In the corp world, we talk a lot about the value of small wins. I would’ve considered that to be a big win! I would’ve embarrassed myself and celebrated more than Franklin or Ledecky! Ha ha 🏊‍♀️🏊‍♀️🏊‍♀️🏊‍♀️😎😎😎

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  5. I love your point about “their abilities aren’t set in stone.” That’s really core isn’t it? If we believe they are, even if that belief is way down deep, it’s going to keep us from trying. What a great story and image to come back to, Brian! Thank you!

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  6. Way to go for winning that race, Brian. And I agree that it’s good to have that one marker in front of you who is slightly ahead and faster to motivate you and to give you that urge to push through the pain and surpass them.

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