Focus your attention and run hard

Published 9:34 pm Wednesday, January 16, 2019

By QuaWanna Bannarbie

Unit runs are a military tradition in which a platoon, company or battalion run together in an organized formation.

My first introduction to the unit run was as midshipman candidate at the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, R.I. My memories of the military runs I endured throughout my career are 90 percent unpleasant. Whether I was running in full camouflage utilities to include combat boots or carrying a drill rifle in my hands or running in Navy-issue gym uniform, these runs were always challenging for me.

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I remember the first time that we gathered in ranks for a unit run. I was a bit excited. I had visions of this prior to my enlistment, because I watched several military movies like “Full Metal Jacket” that imparted a sense of cohesion and somewhat ease of running together. There was something about that idea of being together on a run that gave me great expectation. I had no idea how difficult it is to run together. I realized in that first run that I was ill-prepared for that aspect of physical conditioning. I was not a runner, and I fell back in nearly all the runs that first year at the preparatory school.

Our physical fitness trainer that year was Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Samuel Flynn from Payne, Ohio. I have vivid memories of him shouting my name every single time I fell behind in ranks. In fact, Gunny Flynn made me and another midshipman candidate who ran poorly his personal project. I will never forget him running next to me, critiquing my breathing and my stride. He would ask me how much I wanted to be there and question whether I had the mental stamina to push myself to “run hard.” He reminded me often that he couldn’t run for me. He emphasized the responsibility of choice was on me to run despite what the environment presented to me. I had to pick my legs up and push beyond my pain. Rhode Island is cold in the winter. On a January day, it hurt to breathe while you ran. He would say, “Focus on your ability to run, any other focus creates inability.” His volume and tone of voice was distasteful, but his words were intentional.

The beginning of a new year is much like a unit run. The brigade of intentions takes off carrying each of us along. We begin well. After a few laps, something happens that separates well-meant intentions from actions. Somehow, we lose our focus. Remember Gunny’s wise words, “Focus on your ability.”

Last week, my article on goals encouraged you to surrender your goals to God. I made a statement that may have been a bit misleading. “It is not up to you to finish what He started.” These words could imply that we don’t have a responsibility to run the race set before us because God has it all. Let me not lead you astray. God is not doing all the work. Our faith in Him doing His part does help us keep focus on our part. We must do our part, because we have the ability. We have been gifted with many abilities inherent in being created in God’s image.

We often think of ability as skills first, because we live in a world that glorifies talent and experience. But before we recognize these individual specialty traits, there are abilities that we share that are powerful abilities in and of themselves. Like what, you ask? Running is just one example.

Gunny Flynn was reminding me that I have the means to run. He was not asking me to sprint or become an Olympic track star. His words emphasized the need to focus my attention on the power in these legs and own that. Once I owned that, my running improved and then I found my inner press. We need that same focus as we work towards our goals. Focus on your ability. Run hard.

QuaWanna Bannarbie is an adjunct professor of nonprofit leadership and management with Indiana Wesleyan University, National and Global. Her children attend Suffolk Public Schools. Connect with her via Twitter @QNikki_Notes.