I ran the Kansas City Half Marathon on October 20th, 2018. It was my fourth half marathon race and it was a picture perfect Fall morning. I would probably hesitate to call myself a, um, runner? That just feels too official. But I put in the time to train and what kind of creative weirdo would I be if I didn’t blog and design about it? I didn’t run for almost two years. I hated it, couldn’t imagine running for 30 minutes. How boring! In life, I’m generally more productive and focused when I have a measurable goal. I want to be the kind of person who just goes for a run on any old day whenever I feel like it, but signing up for a race gives me a deadline and plan to get there. Over the past few months and years, I’ve realized how much the words I use encourage to myself during a training run are just as applicable in real life. Here’s what Katie’s Brain tells Katie’s Body during a run.

Number 1 Running Graphic | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

1. Go as slow as you want but do not stop.

I am a person who needs momentum. If I’m in motion I’m more likely to stay in motion. Newton’s First Law and stuff. A hard stop? That makes it really hard for me to mentally and physically get moving again. I track my mileage with a Garmin watch so I know how fast and how far I’ve gone. This means I’m aware of my pace; faster than usual, slower than usual, standing still waiting to cross a street. I notice that I run faster than usual on shorter runs when I know it should take me less time. My splits are all over the place, I’m winded, tense, and my expectations are unrealistic. But on longer runs, I am consistent. I mentally and physically know that I need to settle in because this one is going to take a little time. And that, I am learning, is the key to most important things in life, in business, in relationships. Go slow. Settle in. Save a little bit for later.

Number 2 Running Graphic | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

2. Take the hills one step at a time.

I’m not a fast runner, I am extremely average and extremely okay with it. Literally no one in the world cares if I run up a hill, or walk up a hill, or sit on the couch. And yet, I feel like a stadium full of spectators watch as I approach a hill. I find myself sizing up how giant and steep it looks. I’m contemplating how hard it’s going to be before I’m even there. Hysteria ensues… That’s not a hill! That’s, like, a mountain! A steep, jagged, treacherous mountain! Right here, in my suburban neighborhood! Spoiler Alert: Hills are part of the course, not the course itself. The act of running up a hill is the exact same as cruising a flat stretch. Two feet, alternating steps. Keep doing the thing you’ve been doing. It’s not one giant stride to the top. Um, is this sounding like a metaphor for life? A technical glitch, an upset client, a family miscommunication. They’re part of the course, not the course itself.

Number 3 Running Graphic | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

3. The only way home is to keep going.

Maybe this one sounds sad or harsh but I usually need a little tough-love-self-encouragement at the half-way mark or my turn-around point. I have to remind myself that I committed to putting in the work to do this run. I don’t force myself to a point where I’m injured or unhealthy or anything; this is more about accountability. In a firm, but polite manner I tell myself, “You’ve come this far. You committed to this run. You’re [X] miles from your end point. At half-way? It’s the same distance back that you’ve already travelled. You’ve gotta cover that ground to be done.” Backtracking over your first 50% requires the same amount of effort as finishing the remaining 50%. I try to employ this same mindset when finishing a particularly tedious or challenging project. Procrastination or self-sabotage inevitably set in and I just want to be done. The big idea is that there’s absolutely no substitute for doing the work. Tasks A, B, C must be done to complete the project. Power through. Keep Going. Refer to Number 1.

Number 4 Running Graphic | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

4. Measure your progress.

This is a habit I am working on cultivating. My better half is a meticulous record-keeper (gas mileage, bank account, running logs, you name it) and I’m trying to learn from him. Measuring progress is a big reason I wear my GPS watch to track my distance, speed, and frequency. Numbers help take the emotion out of certain decisions, especially for me (feelings, feelings, everywhere). Can I really run 6 miles today? Absolutely! In fact, you’ve done this a dozen times before in all types of weather! When I feel overwhelmed or discouraged, I’m learning to look back at the “analytics” of my life. According to the past 29 years, the data shows that I have survived 100% of the stressful times in my life. Track your progress and let the numbers prop you up when your heart’s not in it. Count the miles and the milestones.

Number 5 Running Graphic | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

5. Find yourself a few good cheerleaders.

I do not mean that you need to arrange a large crowd of adoring fans. It probably wouldn’t hurt, but it’s not necessary. I do mean that you need a few people in your life who notice. A few trusted souls who acknowledge you’re working hard, putting in the hours. A few people who ask if you’re eating, sleeping, stretching, telling you to “just get it done already.” A few people who will linger after the race to sit with you while drink chocolate milk and eat a banana. I have found this to be true during each race and in my first year running a small business. I do not mean that only good friends refer clients to you. Again, wouldn’t hurt (I’m kidding!). I mean that a handful of people have trusted me to take care of businesses and people they care about. No crowds of screaming fans. A small circle can make such a big difference.

Race Day

When people ask why or how I could possibly RUN THIRTEEN MILES, I usually tell them that any hesitations are shattered on Race Day. I know life-long runners likely don’t want or need the loud, spandex fanfare of an organized race but I love it. There is an electric energy the morning of a race. It’s early, it’s dark, the strangers next to you have run their hills and healed their blisters. Most folks will have one spectator along the route–a spouse, a kid, friend, coworker, etc–to shout a few encouraging words or hold a clever sign. Some runners are going it alone. You can hear the noise and celebration of the finish line a mile away. You might only recognize one voice in that crowd, but it doesn’t matter. Everyone is cheering for someone. Let the cheer spill over because it could encourage someone else.

Thanks for reading. If you’re one of my cheerleaders, thanks from the very bottom of my heart. If you’re someone else’s cheerleader, thanks from the very bottom of my heart, too. I don’t think you have to run half marathons or a business to know that slow and steady helps you stay consistent. But if you do want to run a half marathon or a business, settle in. This is gonna take a minute.