‘If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.’
I wrote this Benjamin Franklin quote in the book that I was writing. I wanted the quote to set the stage for a paragraph that was going to dig deeper into the vast power of strategizing.
As my fingers continued punching my laptop’s silver keyboard, I paused.
I had a nagging feeling that someone was watching me. Which was strange, because it was 2.45AM and I was alone in the house. August 3rd, Monday. I looked up into the wall-size mirror in front of me and caught my reflection. My brown eyes were gazing at me deeply.
‘Do you usually craft clear plans or you often fail to plan?’
These words flowed into my spirit like a silent mountain spring.
Aaaaah! It wasn’t that someone was watching me. Rather, those words that I had just typed – If you fail to plan, you plan to fail – had flown from the screen like a bird and were now perched in the branches of my mind. They were demanding my immediate attention.
I paid attention and immediately started crafting a plan for my morning run, which was due in about two and a half hours’ time at 4.20AM. I opened an Excel sheet and keyed in the speeds that I intended to run for each kilometer so that I could match either my personal record of 5:38 or improve on it.
Aaaaah! I exclaimed loudly, realizing that in planning properly for that run, I had actually empowered myself with clear goals that I could pursue deliberately, not stumble into accidentally. It was a liberating feeling.
At exactly 4.20AM I walked out of my door into the sweet embrace of the cold pre-dawn breeze. The sky was smiling brightly because of the full moon that was crawling across it. I stood for a few moments and tilted my head further upward to admire that full moon. In about two hours’ time, it was going to make way for the sun.
Will my right hip behave? I wondered as I began my run at Kamuti’s Butchery. For two weeks, this hip had been in a lousy mood.
Let’s hope for the best.
After running for about twenty steps, a smile formed on my lips. My body was telling me to relax, that everything would be just fine. I did exactly that and felt more wind in my legs, more subtle speed. As a result, I ran the entire first kilometer without slowing down for a few seconds, as I normally did. I covered this first kilometer in 5:25 minutes, thirteen seconds faster than the target in my plan. Interesting, I thought as I gazed up at the full moon and winked at it. I felt like it was cheering me on.
Those five ladies who normally run together in a group emerged from the shadow of a bus into the soft glare of a streetlight. I smiled at them as our paths crossed. I liked their discipline and the way they usually ran together, cheering each other on.
Although you should always be your own biggest cheerleader, it helps a lot to have friends who cheer you on towards the finish line instead of dragging you back or simply not caring how and when you will cross the finish line.
I crossed the second kilometer’s finish line 5:22 minutes, seven seconds faster than the speed that I had planned for. However, for the third kilometer, I was sixteen seconds slower than the 5:20 minutes speed that I had planned for. This slower speed was caused by sewer rivulets that were flowing along Moi Drive. It looks like there was a burst sewer pipe somewhere in the vicinity. This being Nairobi, people were simply going to adapt to the flowing sewer instead of demanding immediate action from Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company.
I had to hop and skip in order to avoid splashing into the sewer. Because I knew that I had fallen short of my goal by sixteen seconds, I knew that I had to run the next kilometer at a faster speed. With that refined goal in mind, I ran this fourth kilometer faster by fourteen seconds.
After a time of 1:04:39, I completed my 11.58 kilometer run in an average speed of 05:34 minutes. This was a personal record. But it didn’t just happen. It has resulted from many morning runs that have been both exhilarating and agonizing in equal measure.
In the words of Bwak the Bantu Poet, ‘small steps generate big power and achieve big results. Find your small steps then keep walking in them.’