In two weeks, for the second year in a row, I’m running a 10 Km race. This means running for an hour non-stop. If you had asked me to train and run this distance two years ago I would have said it was impossible. I would have said “I’m not a runner, I’m more into lifting weights,” or “I don’t have the body type of a distance runner.” At the time I signed up for a 5 Km run with my girlfriend and a few friends. Not wanting to embarrass myself, I decided to train a bit to see how I could do. At first I could only run a hundred metres or so. Every couple of days I would run a bit further, and although it felt nice to make some progress, I was still nowhere close to the proper distance.
And then something happened. I started talking to people about running. Its this funny thing that happens when we start doing something regularly. We think about it, and so we talk about it with those we trust. Some of those people got on board with it, and encouraged me. Others even wanted to run with me because they felt it would help get them out a bit more. I went for a run with my friend Shane, who is in much better shape than I am. When we ran, I noticed that not only did I cover more distance than I usually do, I was faster than I usually am, even after a HUGE uphill stretch. I ran the 5 Km race non-stop, and faster than I could have expected. My training had taken a leap forward. Why? Runners often talk about always performing better in an actual race than they do in training, but why does this happen?
Its because when we work with others, we are doing it for the good of the group. When we work with those that we consider to be more skilled than us, we rise to the challenge to try and impress them. When we work with those below us, we want to help them and so we lead them and encourage them. Regardless of what side of the coin you’re on, you get a positive feeling due to the brain chemical oxytocin. This is the chemical biologically responsible for human connection. It drives us to help others and bond with others. When we work together to accomplish a goal as a group, we gain a greater benefit than if we did it alone.
This applies to far more than just running, in fact running is a simple example to illustrate the concept. If you want to improve in anything, find someone who shares your beliefs and work with them. This is synergy, the ‘1 plus 1 equals 3’ mentality. Having others to work with not only encourages you to work longer and harder, but it encourages them to do the same, and the rush of oxytocin gives the good feelings to all! Go find those who share your beliefs.
Before my 10 Km run last year, I as worried. I had made incredible strides, but I had only run 7-8 Km at most during the training runs. How could I cover a distance that was further than I had ever gone? I never entertained the idea of stopping during a race, but it was scary knowing that so many fit people would be running and seeing me out there struggling to breathe. But then I thought about how I would feel seeing them gasp for breath. I would want to help them, encourage them, and I would be inspired that they kept going through all that agony. Why wouldn’t they feel the same way about me? I was nervous at the start, but had my girlfriend there with me to help motivate me. Once I started running, I didn’t stop for 10 Km. There were times when I wanted to give up, when I was gasping for air, but I told myself that I had to keep up with those people in front of me, and I had to stay ahead of those people behind me, and I couldn’t stop because then the people watching would see me give up.
Working with others is how you turn impossible into reality.