“You are entitled to the work, not to the fruits thereof.”

-Bhagavad Gita

I had trained all winter for this race. I had worked out twice a week, grinding myself through endless repeats and mileage. I had braved blizzards. I had run nearly every mile alone and in the dark. I had rested and tapered perfectly for this race– I was ready to unleash months of work.

Then I woke up to a twenty degree day, with thirty mile an hour headwinds. Within two minutes of the gun going off I wanted to drop out. I marched my way to a mediocre time, disgusted.

As I’m staring at the bottom of a bottle feeling supremely sorry for myself, I lament to a friend– who would have been a training partner had he not been injured– how I hated running and had wasted my entire winter.

He exploded. I thought he was going to hit me.

He told me three things, very loudly:

  1. I didn’t have to run. There are much more fun and lucrative ways I could have spent my time. I could have learned guitar, learned to code, learned to surf– instead I spent time training. I obviously didn’t hate it, or else I wouldn’t do it.
  2. I was extremely fortunate to be able to run. He couldn’t run; he was injured. Other people can’t run because they have things to do. I was not only fortunate to be healthy, but fortunate that I could take the time to train the way I did.
  3. The race didn’t matter. Races are culminations of training– in some ways, a selfish validation. The work had still happened. While I didn’t have a time to boast of, I still had the work.

Finally, he told me that I didn’t have to race. I wasn’t going to win; I knew that. I wasn’t going to run a good time, and I knew that too. Still though, I had run. I had set out to do something and I had done it– not as well as I had hoped, but as well as I possibly could have.

“You’re not a coward,” he told me. “You know that you tried as hard as you could.”

The universe does not align to our whims. All we can do is prepare as best we can, work as hard as we can. If your happiness is dependent upon results, you’re in for disappointment.

Derive enjoyment from the process. Take pride in the effort. Find solace in the doing.