Those who run know that running is not merely about the race. The sport is about determination, persistence and self-discovery. Running has taught me everything I have ever needed to know about living a life with passion and purpose, while also setting and achieving big goals.

1.       Believe in yourself. I finished my first marathon in four hours, but I was so elated you would think that I had won a gold medal at the Olympics! I trained hard, persevered during the weeks of challenging training and stuck to my plan, all while raising three young boys. When I looked at my finisher’s medal, I knew that I could do anything I set my mind to. With this mindset, I completed my second marathon and qualified for the Boston Marathon. A few years later, I qualified for my first Olympic Trials. That first marathon taught me that when you believe in yourself and work hard, you will succeed!


2.       Act as if. Whenever I set a new goal, I always act as if I am going to triumph. This doesn’t involve bragging, but instead a quiet confidence. I train hard, visualize daily and trust that I am capable of achieving anything. Try this: write down your goal and the words, “90 percent of doing anything is believing you can!” and hang it on your refrigerator. Don’t say “I’m trying to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Trials,” but instead, “I am training for the 2016 Olympic Trials.” You are powerful and your self-belief will bring out the best in you!


3.       Accept challenges, failures and setbacks as necessary lessons on your journey to success. If you hope to reach your full potential, you must experience setbacks and learn from your mistakes. Some of your most valuable lessons will be gained from enduring such challenges. I have learned not to start races at a pace I can’t sustain, but only after running out of fuel at the end of a few too many races. I know not to be worried about the outcome of a race because, in the past, doing so has prevented me from enjoying the journey. I have learned far more from my setbacks than my successes. If you have never failed then your goals are likely too easy. View challenges as opportunities to grow, so you can move closer to your dreams and goals each day.


4.       Set 3 different goals: a Realistic Goal, a Dream Goal and a Not-My-Day Goal. Your Realistic Goal should be just within reach and serve as the foundation for your training and race plan. Your Dream Goal should reflect your performance level if everything were to go perfectly on race day--the wind is at your back, competition brings you to a new level and your legs feel like they are floating. Lastly, the Not-My-Day Goal prepares you for the worst case scenario: you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, your period starts, your nose is stuffed up, it’s snowing outside and you accidently brought two left shoes. We will all experience races like this, but if you mentally prepare for ALL possibilities, then you will be able to handle anything.  There are many factors that go into running a perfect race. Prepare for the worst, but expect the best. No matter the outcome, you will always achieve at least one of your three goals!


5.       Be grateful. So often we focus on the negative things in our life, rather than that which is going well. Every day, write down at least one thing that you are grateful for (and hopefully more). If I don’t meet my goal during a tough race, I will write down all of the lessons learned during training, any insights gained during the race and everything that I am grateful for. Then, I let it go. You must move forward and stay positive so that you can tackle your next race with both hope and vigor!


6.       Avoid negative people. Attitude is everything, and boy is it contagious! In the past, I have had training partners that were so negative that they sucked all of the positive energy out of me. I quickly learned to limit my time with persistent downers, while still treating them with kindness and respect. Don’t get me wrong--life is full of ups and downs and it’s important to support our good friends through both; I’m talking about the person who thrives on self-inflicted drama and can’t ever seem to see the good in a situation. Instead, surround yourself with people who you respect and admire, people who will hold you to a higher standard and inspire you. When you spend time with inspirational people, you will become a stronger runner and a better person. 


7.       Stay motivated. When I achieve one goal, I quickly set another. This keeps me driven and fuels my passion. After the 2012 Olympic Trials, I was mentally and physically burned out. Ready to retire, my goal was to stay in shape, coach and have fun! I found myself running less because my training didn’t have a purpose, and I realized that training with goals helped keep me motivated and on track. You don’t need to train for the Olympics; you could simply set the goal to run one new marathon each year. Setting goals help you feel that you’re making progress, growing as a person and accomplishing new feats.


8.       Positive affirmations. Find small note cards that you can place around your home, in your office or in your car. Write inspirational phrases such as, “I am strong and fast!” and “Believe to achieve!” You might also write a religious verse like, “The Lord is my strength.” Find words that motivate and inspire YOU, and then repeat them every day to boost your confidence and keep you positive. I have “Believe” tattooed on my foot, I’ve hung motivating quotes throughout my house, and I repeat my favorite mantras over in my head during especially difficult miles. A positive attitude paired with positive affirmations will make you stronger and more successful than ever!


9.       Show appreciation. Success is not a solo journey. You will find that people love to support others in pursuit of their big dreams. Don’t take this support for granted! Say thank you to race volunteers, send thank you notes to race directors, refer new clients to your wellness and success team (massage therapist, chiropractor, trainer, coach, etc.). Reaching goals would not be as fun without family and friends to share in the excitement, so make the effort to show gratitude for their support. It feels good to be appreciated, and it feels just as good to show appreciation for others!


10.   Enjoy the journey without worrying about the outcome. Before one of my marathons, I played a game: as I chatted with the competition, I noted who was worried about their finish time, training mistakes, lack of sleep or minor illnesses. Guess what. None of them achieved their goals. On the other hand, those who talked about how they were going to run each mile at a given pace, stick to their plan and follow through on their training were set for success. Each one achieved their goal. Stay focused, run one mile at a time and do your best. No excuses.


11.   Don’t compare yourself to others. When I first began running competitively in Arizona, my goal was to beat Angela French (the fastest woman in AZ at the time). I finally beat her in a local half marathon and felt great about it! When I approached her to say hello, she said, “Don’t get too close, because I have bronchitis and the flu.” Rather than feeling good about beating a sick competitor, I should have felt good because I trained hard and ran my personal best. Bottom line is this: use competition to elevate yourself to a new level, but don’t judge your performance based on who you did or didn’t beat. We all have good days and bad days, and you never know what’s going on with someone else. Focus all of your energy into concentrating on your race and running with all your heart.

Though the above examples relate to running, they can be applied to all areas of life. From motivation and drive to gratitude and appreciation, we can control how we respond to situations and other people. Knowing this, take every opportunity to keep a positive attitude and inspire others to do the same.