I’ve been training to run my first 10k and it has – to say the least – been a painful process. I’ve never been much of a runner and on most days, training is fairly miserable. What makes it harder is the fact that running comes easily to some people and that sometimes those people forget that it doesn’t come easily to others.

“A 5k is nothing!”
“Once you run for 20 minutes, it’s just like walking.”
“You just have to get the form down, then it’s a breeze.”
“A 10 minute mile is slow! You can definitely do it.”

Even on my good days, I’m averaging roughly an 11-minute mile and need to walk after about 2.5 miles. And it’s in those out-of-breath, sweaty, exhausted moments that I need to remind myself that it is okay that this is what I can currently do. That if I continue to plug forward, I will grow stronger and go further. That excellence and achievement sometimes do not come naturally, but instead through a determination to learn and steadfast practice.

This is true not just as a runner but as a human. We all have different gifts, different styles, different perspectives. Cultivating excellence among our differences is an intentional exercise that takes persistence, patience, and empathy. It is when we commit to learning about ourselves and others and practice extending grace to those around us that we grow stronger, both individually as leaders and as a community.

[UPDATE] I wrote this post back in January for a race in February. I actually did it - and came in under my target time! Whew. It's being posted now because the concept is most definitely still relevant, and also because I have not run since and am about to sign up for another race, which means I will likely be experiencing this painful process all over again. Wish me luck!