What a 5km run on a treadmill taught me about setting big life goals

I like to run 5km on a treadmill 3 times a week. I say like, I mean I like the feeling and motivation I get when I successfully run 5km on a treadmill 3 times a week. Reality being that it doesn’t always happen.

Photo Credit: Quentin Stafford-Fraser

Still, it’s always the same routine. I step up onto the treadmill, hit manual and off I go, tweaking it as I go. I know I can run the 5km in about 26 minutes so that’s usually my benchmark. How I do that often varies. Sometimes (rarely) I get it in and only then do I feel great about it and I allow myself to feel a sense of achievement.

Mostly though my knees are playing up, I have a twinge in my hip that makes every minute feel like 10 and because I didn’t warm up properly I tell myself that I should go a bit easy so I won’t have to limp around tomorrow.

Most of my 5km runs end up taking much longer than my personal best of 26 minutes so even though I might still get there, I don’t let myself feel my sense of achievement. I could have done better and no matter how easy I allow myself to go, I always end up with that damn limp the next day.

This morning I stepped up to the treadmill and in my usual manner I hit manual. This time though, as it’s January 3rd and everyone wants to use the treadmill, the machines are offering a 20 minute time limit.

Well, I know I can’t run 5km in 20 minutes, but I really want to get my 5km run in! So, this morning I decide to change the settings.


I forget about the time and I punch in my distance goal of 5kms instead and I start running. I see clearly on the monitor 5km, and I start to see the distance clocking down. 4.9km…4.5km…4km…

With that I get the sense that I’ve already achieved the 5km because I saw it clearly before I started. Now it feels like all I’m doing is actually making it happen, following it up in a way.

Today, instead of starting at 0km and feeling like I’m starting at the bottom having to climb up, today I started at the top and I’m working backwards.

I kept a steady pace for the first 2km, then I did intervals for 1.5km, then an uphill jog for 0.5km, then I sped all the way to the finish line. To 0km. And it felt bloody fantastic.

It took me longer than my personal best of 26 minutes, but that didn’t matter at all. I still felt great regardless. Without the pressure of time breathing down my neck and into every muscle and joint, I had a great run.

I’ve been stuck in a rut for the past few months in all the major areas of my life. On 31st December I reached out and sought guidance from someone about it for the first time ever.

I practice Nichiren Buddhism so my guidance came from one senior in practice. I explained this feeling of deadlock that I was experiencing. I said ‘I really want to get going, my life is so ready to advance but it just won’t. I don’t know how to get it moving.’

I was asked, ‘what’s your vision?’

The question silenced me. I didn’t really have one. Sure, I have things I hope to achieve, but a vision of what that looks like, I hadn’t a clue really. For various reasons I have really struggled to have a vision for my life, especially in the last few months. I was told that having a vision is crucial. I was also told that I had to be precise and clear about what it looks like.

My guidance was scheduled for 10am on a Sunday morning. Had I simply been told, ‘let’s meet on Sunday, maybe 9am, possibly 1pm, potentialy at X place, but perhaps at Z place,’ how would I know where I was going? How could I make any real plans for that day? It wouldn’t just be confusing and wasteful of time, it would be pretty impossible to make the meeting altogether.

I have always had this obsession with time. Making all my decisions on the basis that I have to hurry. That if I don’t move with time’s expectations then I’ll miss out. That what I have will be taken from me if I’m not quick enough.

Time has always run my life. Time has the power to place crushing pressure on us. We are governed by it, we play by its rules. We plan our days, our lives according to what it offers us. People judge us based on their own perspective of it and how best it should be spent. We then judge ourselves based on these perspectives and so on. Time is infinite, time is eternity, yet somehow it’s never quite enough.

This year I’m playing the rules a bit differently and I am refusing to bend to time’s pressures anymore. Instead, I’m going to be patient. I’m going to spend some time working on my vision, which doesn’t come overnight, and then, with my vision clearly in front of me, I’m going to take necessary steps. Hopefully with more clarity and purpose in my actions.

Oh, and I’m working on trusting my life too because I’m 28 this year and it’s about time that I did.

This morning I had a vision to finish a great 5km run. I punched the distance into the machine and saw it there. It was right there in front of me, as clear as day. Seeing it, I felt like I had already made it. I just had to get there. Now I need to do the same with my life.


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