I’m running a marathon. I know it sounds crazy, and many of you have Facebooked me to say that you would never consider it. But I can’t help it. My cousin told me that he didn’t think I could do it with only 8 weeks of training, so I’m proving him wrong. But proving someone wrong has never been this painful before! Ice and a foam baseball bat that I’m using to roll out my IT Band have become my best friends.

At the same time, I had no idea that training for a marathon would teach me about life. Here’s what I mean.

Have you ever seen a training schedule for a marathon or any long-distance run? I have a picture of one included here. My first week of training included four days of running. Monday I ran four miles, Wednesday I ran six miles, Thursday I ran four miles, and Saturday I ran ten miles. Each week, the mileage increases a little bit at a time. Three weeks from now, I’m running a 20-mile run in one day. The training schedule has one purpose – to slowly prepare your body for running 26 miles at one time.

Do you know what would happen if I tried to run 26 miles right now? I would end up with torn muscles, stress fractures in my shins, and I may even pass out from dehydration. Why? Because I’m not ready yet. But by running ten miles yesterday, and five miles this coming Monday – I will be taking a few small steps toward the big goal of 26 miles.

Jim Collins, in his book Built To Last, talks about Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs). BHAGs are goals that are almost impossible. For people that aren’t training, they are impossible. The way to accomplish a BHAG is to set up small goals – like a ladder – that slowly bring you closer to the big goal.

It’s like a musician that wants to hit it big. If they write one song, burn it to a CD, and mail it to every production company they can find in the phone book – they aren’t going anywhere. In fact, no one will ever listen to his song. But what if the musician starts to play his song at a few karaoke bars or coffee shops around town? What if people like it when he plays, so he writes a few more songs, and continues to play at bars around town? He will slowly start mastering the art of writing, and begin building a fan base. From there, he can look for a few larger venues to play in. He can cut an album for his 100 fans. And each of these steps is like a rung on a ladder. Each step brings him closer to his goal.

But setting a BHAG – like running a marathon – also requires sacrifice. This morning, I had my first cup of coffee in four or five days. Normally I drink coffee every day, but on running days and the day before my long run of the week I have to give it up.

I also haven’t been able to watch much TV over the past few weeks. I live in Colorado, which means that it gets cold in the morning and at night. My boss is being generous and letting me go home during lunch and run during my break. By the time I leave the office, run, take a shower, and return to the office – it’s been more than one hour. The only time I have left to make up hours is at night. My BHAG of running a marathon, means working late hours and sacrificing stuff like TV shows.

Not only do BHAG’s require small goals and a few sacrifices, but they also require learning. Research is a runner’s best friend. Whenever I feel a twinge in my leg, I spend the evening looking up symptoms and how to treat the problems. I have also read recommended meal plans, and my training schedule is a modified version of the one from Runner’sWorld. Research is imperative.

What is your BHAG? What do you want to accomplish with your life? Marathon training has taught me that I can shoot for the stars, as long as I’m willing to learn how to engineer a spaceship and spend time building it. In fact, I’m starting to wonder if these simple principles are the basic keys of success in every area of our lives.

What is your BHAG? Continue the conversation by commenting below…

P.S. Dave Ramsey gave me the idea for this post with a talk he did titled, “High Performance Achievement.

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