Don’t run

I mentioned in my previous post that I’ve always had a problem properly pacing myself. Here’s a little story that illustrates that fact pretty well.

My first trip to Japan in 2001 was not a leisurely excursion. We were constantly on the move and we were always walking, whether it was to explore a certain area or just to get to our next destination.

In Kyoto, we spent a day wandering through the sprawling temples and shrines of Mt. Hiei. It was long day of hiking through the mountains.

Towards the end of the day we were headed back the way we came, so we could get to a trolley that would take us back down the mountain. We came to a temple at the foot of a long flight of wide stone stairs. I was feeling good. I’d made it through the long day and felt energetic enough to tackle those steps. And so I started briskly jogging up, to make the trip to the top shorter.

Our instructor Todd and my classmate Jason, both experienced hikers, immediately yelled at me, “No! Don’t run!” Startled, I slowed down as they explained: running up the stairs would take more energy than walking up them, and I’d wear myself out for the rest of the trip back.

I wasn’t sure I believed this was true. At least if I ran I could get it over with, and I might even enjoy it. Plodding up the stairs seemed like a neverending trial.

Still, I did as they suggested. It turned out that after that we had longer to go to the trolley than I’d thought. By the end of our hike my legs were only moving through the sheer force of my will. The trolley ride was but a brief respite, and soon we were trudging through the streets of Kyoto. When finally we stopped at a restaurant for a meal, I was so exhausted that all I could manage to eat was a bowl of white rice.

I wondered how it would have been if I had gone ahead and run the stairs. Would I have even made it to the trolley?

I realized even then that this story was a metaphor for life, but until yesterday I hadn’t applied it to my work. Now I see that I’ve been trying to run from 10 in the morning until 7 at night. Some days I’ve managed it. Some days I’ve stumbled. And some days I’ve been numb while I recovered. The end result? I’ve managed to excel at work, but pretty much everything else has fallen to the wayside.

I want to do more. I don’t want to pass out before I even get to the trolley.

I’ll just have to remember, when the urge to plow into a project consumes me, the lesson I learned on that historic mountain.

Don’t run.

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