Run for Autism - 2021

Run for Autism - 2021

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A couple of weeks ago, I started a campaign to raise money into my Run For Autism 2021. Long story short, I made it! Raising the money, running the distance, and raising more awareness. It’s been a challenging journey given I experienced a lot of adversaries along the way.

Here are some of the key takeaways of this journey: - Always define the purpose - Set realistic expectations - Love the process - Deliver what you’ve committed - Know when to rest

Always define the purpose #

There are many reasons to participate in an event. Whether that’s just pure hype or the cause is personal to you, there is a reason “why.” That why is very important. It’s going to be your fuel when things get tough, and when you’re not sure why you’re still doing something.

My why for this cause is because of my son and wife. They are both in the spectrum, and this is a topic that I deeply care about. My son was diagnosed at an early age, and has changed me (and the people around me) forever. I became more open with the world around me, and how people are both unique and similar.

I’m not just doing this for myself. When the weight of a cause is larger than yourself, the motivation also gets bigger. The stakes are also higher, but there is a notion that “it’s not just you.” There is a support backing you. Whether through money or motivation, the purpose kindles your spirit throughout the journey.

Set realistic expectations #

Right from the beginning, I’ve set some expectations on to myself and to others on what I want to achieve out of this. I am not aiming for any world record or even a personal best. The parameters were clear that I am aiming to raise the money (777 AUD) and cover the distance (49 KM). I was also aiming not to get injured along the journey, that’s why the speed wasn’t very important for me. I approached this reasonably, and without fooling myself.

This is very important, because having unrealistic goals will often break your spirit when you’re in the middle of it. When the finish line seems so far, and you feel like you’re not getting there, you will have the tendency to abandon it. On the other hand, there is also no point of setting a “very easy” goal that you can just finish straight away - as this brings boredom and not challenge. The key is to aim for something you haven’t done, but you know that given the right time, effort, and resources - is achievable.

Love the process #

Any venture that you do in life, whether that’s starting a business or starting a career - you should always love the process. You don’t just look after passing the finish line, you don’t just expect to graduate tomorrow, you don’t just expect results by doing small effort. As we keep on saying “it’s about the journey, and not the destination.” & “learn to smell the flowers” are very true.

I know that running 49 KM will be boring, so I had to be a little creative about it. I packed myself with a lot of audiobooks and podcasts that are in my backlog for quite some time now. I’m surprised that I actually immersed with the content, and felt like “learning while suffering”. Not to be a masochist, but sometimes we need a little physical pain in order to keep our minds in tact and sharp.

My goal is not to just run 49 KM and stop next week. My goal is to have a healthier lifestyle and become a lifelong running. The experience is meditative on my end, and will continue to be part of my system. Results are just byproducts of your love on to the process. Today, it’s about this challenge, next month it’s about something else - but the process is still the same.

Deliver what you’ve committed #

Unfortunately, I had my very first gout attack (left foot toe) in my life. The timing couldn’t be any less perfect, as it’s the time I have to do this journey. It could have been easy to just do 7 KM run everyday for 7 days, but halfway through, I just couldn’t walk properly. My foot is sore and there is extreme pain every 4AM.

Although, nothing serious at this point, this was a major setback on my plans. The pain was at its worst on the first 2 days. I really felt like giving up on the cause and just forget about it. However, I realized that this is just a setback, and doesn’t really define the outcome. So I took proper rests, and on the last 2 days, I ran 14 KM each day - covering all the remaining deficits. When you don’t really fulfill your promise, your words become meaningless. People will trust you less. This key lesson is also very important when you’re raising capital or convincing a client on “why you.”

Know when to rest #

This journey wasn’t a “full time job” or 100% focus on my end. I have to continue working and make sure that I also fulfill my family duties and prior commitments. This allowed me to be smarter with my time. I use the running time to process or solve some of the problems that I face at work. I also took better care of my mental health, as I know when to pivot and move on to the next thing. I had 2 types of rests during this journey.

The physical rest that I make sure I don’t get fatigue, I get enough sleep, and nutrition. This activity is very exhausting and you would really feel the numbness and sore of your feet at night. Doing the basics is always the best - no need to overcomplicate. Enough sleep, eat right, and maintain your stress level.

Then the other one is the spiritual rest. This is more important, as this allowed me to stay on track on things. I am still very new to mindful meditation, but this really helped me a lot to make sure I am on top of things. Writing and journaling also helped me a lot in this process, as it allowed me to just flow through my thoughts and ideas into words.

Overall, it was indeed a challenging but at the same time fun experience. I would definitely do it again next year (with higher stakes). This won’t be possible without my wife, my son, my family, and my friends. I am very fortunate that I experienced this journey!


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Michael John Peña avatar

Michael is an experienced technologist based in Sydney, Australia, a Microsoft MVP since 2015 with over 12 years of working experience ranging from Mobile, Cloud, Web and DevOps. He currently owns Datachain Consulting, a company that focuses on democratizing AI and Blockchain technologies. He is also a technical advisor to some technology startups. His roles allow him to explore the cutting edge technologies of Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, IoT, Edge Computing, and the Cloud.