A long time ago, someone told me to make a point to set goals in my life. That’s what I’ve tried to do. The way I look at things, it didn’t matter whether or not I achieved them every time. But I’ve always worked hard at things in an effort to achieve them. I also made sure that my list of goals contained both reasonable and real difficult challenges so as to stretch myself. I knew that trying to increase my running mileage to 75-100 miles a week was going to be one of those “real difficult challenges”, given my age and previous knee problems. I also knew that I’d have to continue to look over my shoulder, given my cancer diagnosis, even with what appeared to be a successful outcome.
I put together a running plan, which had me slowly increasing my mileage about 5 miles per week. As I was doing research on different ways to increase my speed and mileage, I came across an old Arabian proverb that got me thinking. It reads “Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables. That he may run what readth it.” I think this proverb really sums up the meaning of goal setting and achievement. If you can’t visualize doing something, then how can you possibly even attempt to accomplish it. It’s now clear to me that the importance of the mental aspect of goal setting can’t be overstated. I know that a number of professional sports teams have tried to address these issues and that certain baseball managers use different types of techniques to get players to relax in times of stress.
I have used running as my diversion from thinking about cancer and for the most part, it’s worked well. But it doesn’t matter what you use in my opinion. I think you just need to find out what makes you motivated, excited, or happy and do it, whether it’s running, biking, weight-lifting, swimming, walking, hiking, reading, writing etc… And along the way, set some goals on your journey and work towards achieving them. But always remember to have fun because it’s very difficult to sustain any effort if you start to hate things or you take too much on.
A common mistake made by beginner runners is that they start to feel really good and then increase their mileage at too great a rate and get injured. Then they tend to associate this failure with the activity itself, a great excuse to not run. I have firsthand experience with this issue since I’ve made this mistake more than once. What I’ve come to realize is that being patiently persistent is a key ingredient to being successful at your running goals. I think this can be applied to just about every goal too.
As the one year anniversary of my cancer surgery neared, I felt lucky, happy and motivated. It’s ironic now that I think about it. Just 14 months ago, my life was turned upside down with my cancer diagnosis. And now I’m talking about feeling all these positive things. Maybe humans need to be knocked down every once and a while to really appreciate what they have. I always thought that I didn’t take things for granted, but after this experience, I’d have to say that I had room for improvement. I’m making time to do things I enjoy more than ever. Perhaps if I never had cancer I wouldn’t have explored as many new challenges and my life wouldn’t be as fulfilling. I now try not to sweat the small disappointments and frustrations in everyday life because in the end these minor issues don’t deserve that kind of attention. At times, that can be hard though, but I’ve definitely gotten better at doing it.
On July, 2008, I had an appointment with my doctor. My PSA blood test results were <0.1 ng/ml using the Siemens (Bayer) chemiluminescent method. My doctor said that the physical examination and PSA results were very good. It had been just over 13 months since my surgery and I had increased my weekly running mileage to about 58 miles. Unfortunately, my body started to resist this mileage and in particular, my left knee was starting to hurt on a regular basis. I decided around that time to ease back on things a bit and cut my mileage back to around 30 miles per week I kept telling myself, quality over quantity, but I was disappointed. I really wanted to get to 75-100 miles a week. But I wasn’t ready to totally abandon this quest.