How to conquer the urge to quit.

In a conversation the other day, the subject of why people quit Network Marketing or any other business, sport or personal journey came up.

Some people make a decision to quit and do just that. Many others just stop taking action, not conciously quitting but just stopping “doing”. So when I was asked if I had ever been tempted to quit, I realised that I had at many times in my life.

How did I resist the urge to give up?

The times when I had the strongest urge to quit were during the period when I got the running bug. I was not good at, or interested in, track or field sports at school. I was more interested in equine sports. In Rhodesia school sport was compulsory, cricket and rugby for boys, netball, tennis and hockey (field) for girls. Attendance at qualification trials for the annual athletics competition was mandatory. My poor performance generally resulted in my not being selected for any of these.

In my late 30’s I took up running at the urging of my 2 sons who were enthused by the new phenomenon of “fun runs” as a way to raise money for charities. I remember struggling through a 5 km run thinking that I would never make the finish line but too ashamed to let my boys down.

After a few of these short runs, I started enjoying myself and found that I could actually run all of the 5 ks. A friend was the president of a running club, he suggested that I join the club and train with them. I did and progressed through 10km, 15km and eventually a 21 km half marathon. I was getting fitter and my times were coming down. I also noticed that the longer the race, the higher up the finishing order I came.

In South Africa, where I was living, one of the biggest ultra marathons at the time, the 85km Comrades Marathon was run every year. It was the goal of every serious runner to complete at least 1 Comrades within the 11 hour cut off and achieve the coveted bronze medal.

So having go the bug, I had to go for a Comrades Bronze. To complete a race of this distance takes a year of preparation. Because of the length and difficulty of the Comrades course, every runner must qualify by completing a standard 42.2 km marathon in under 4 1/2 hours.

My first attempt at a standard marathon was on a fairly flat course at sea level in mid summer with temperatures around 30 C. I went out too fast, had a terrible race and finished 5 minutes outside the qualifying time. I subsequently qualified, completed 4 Comrades and many other ultra’s, standard marathons and shorter races. Over a 6 year period, I never again failed to finish within the time limit, and I never quit during a race.

In any long distance race, physical reserves become depleted at around 32 – 35 km, muscles become painful, dehydration can become serious and the urge to quit becomes stronger with each step. Especially in hot weather, the mind games start, it is so easy to justify quitting. The further into the race you get, the more you see other runners giving up and getting into the rescue vehicles.

So how did I resist the urge?

If I was really struggling, had stomach cramps, or on a down hill stretch, leg muscles that felt as if they were on fire, I would slow down, walk for a while if necessary. But on no account stop. While focusing on the goal of finishing the race, picturing running under the finish line banner, I would also break the race down into intermediate goals, run to the next telephone pole, the next tree, or if things were really tough, just run 5 more paces then another 5.

Invariably, no matter how bad I felt, just achieving one of those small goals was enough to keep me going to the next small goal and the next.

For a person of average height, an 85 km race is 85 000 paces. Feeling tired at the half way mark and focusing on another 42 500 paces is a formidable challenge but focusing on the next 5 or 10 is manageable.

So that’s my safeguard against quitting, just take the next step, then the next. Keep doing that and it’s amazing what you can accomplish.

Wishing you success in all your endeavours.

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  1 comment for “How to conquer the urge to quit.

  1. May 28, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    Peter— you ARE one of my heroes… Captain Contrarian or no

    I appreciate & admire your focus & determination. For you my friend, anything is possible… even “either/or”.


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