As runners — as humans — we yearn for instant progress.

… We see a problem, and we immediately want to fix it.

… We decide we want to play an instrument, and we expect to pick it up overnight.

… We want to run farther or faster, and look for measurable results after just one or two workouts.

But, as much as we don’t want to admit it, you and I both know that’s not how life works.

Saturday evening, just before bed, my daughter took her first steps (woot!). It was a big deal. We clapped and celebrated the giant, obvious progress…

But the process to get to this point started months ago.

First, she had to learn how to stand up, then it was stumbling her way down the hallway while holding both of my hands. After a while, she had the courage to drop a hand and hold on to our pants.

Then just a single hand, and eventually…

Eventually she took four steps on her own before collapsing into her mother’s arms.

** Cue the fireworks. **

The journey was long — a few months is a pretty big percentage of an 11-month-old’s life — and the progress very slow. Even Saturday’s big win of taking her first solo steps was nothing more than her walking a few feet before needing assistance.

She’s not running marathons… or even walking down the hall.

And you know what? When we tried to get her to walk again yesterday, she wanted nothing to do with it. Nothing. Nope. She’d sit down and asked to be picked up.

But those tiny, uncoordinated baby steps on Saturday were a massively important part of the process.

As you train for whatever running goal has you motivated at the moment, be patient. Embrace the baby steps not as something holding you back, but as the path forward.

The 2.018 Challenge announced last week was designed with this small step approach in mind. 2.018 miles per day isn’t going to get you very far, but the baby step of maintaining consistency will.

A single speed workout — no matter how hard you push — isn’t going to instantly make you faster, but after focusing on your speed for weeks, you will see results.

Will next week’s long run have a drastic impact on your next race? I’m going to say no. But it’s an important baby step in your training.

Next time you’re discouraged by a lack of obvious progress, or the time it’s taking to see the results you desire, think not about exactly where you want to be, but about the bigger picture instead.

Look at how far you’ve come, and the tiny — sometimes uncoordinated and mostly unimpressive — bits of progress you’re making with each run.

Baby steps inching you closer to your goal.


Author Doug Hay is the founder of Rock Creek Runner, host of the Trail Talk podcast, and fanatical about everything trail running -- beards, plaid shirts, bruised toenails, and all. He and his wife live and run in beautiful Black Mountain, NC.

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