Whether you’re a runner, an activist, both, or neither, the ability to set goals, adapt, and persevere is critical to success. I’ve been distance running seriously for a few years, and doing activism my whole life.
Here are things I’ve learned that aren’t covered in political, organizing, and direct action trainings (but should be!):
1. Pacing is going slower than you want to now so you can maintain energy to keep going. I get it, 2020 is a dumpster fire and, at the time of writing, we’re days from the election. But it does not all need to be fixed by you right now. If you are acting like it does, you are very likely to drop out. Success comes from protecting your ability to show up 17 miles later.
2. If you’re working so hard you can’t keep up in a conversation, you need to slow down. Literally. Physically. Now.
3. Take injury seriously. If it hurts your body is telling you to stop. Rest for as long as you need to, which is often weeks or even months. Nothing is more important than your health. ‘Pushing through’ is amateur, and a threat to your ability to continue doing what you love. Breaks and down cycles, including the ones you didn’t plan for, are part of the work.
4. Planning and goal-setting is as important as doing. Accomplishing large goals requires months of advance planning and committing to bite-sized daily goals on your calendar.
5. The smaller slogs are more profound than the flashy moments. The four-mile run on a Tuesday when the weather sucks and you have an early-morning car repair appointment is what makes a marathoner far more than a long-distance run on the best trail or a personal record on the GPS. Phone-banking at home by yourself to catch one person live for a real conversation makes an activist far more than the rare instances of having your picture at a rally on the front page of the news.
6. Journal. Write down what worked and what didn’t, every day. Take the journal with you everywhere you travel.
7. Take fueling seriously. Make sure you’re eating enough throughout the day (every day, not just big run days) and being strategic to eat substantive food that will give you energy, won’t upset your stomach, and doesn’t set your body on edge.
8. Quality sleep is everything. It’s not just the number of hours per day. I’ve found my sleep quality and feeling of being rested upon waking improves markedly when I abstain totally from alcohol.
9. Sturdy underwear. Seriously, what the hell are you trying to do with a wedgie?! I’m sad for you.
10. Make a point to enjoy life along the way. Like running, organizing and activism involves doing a lot of stuff outside — make time to enjoy what you see, smile, and say hi to people.