Rule #3- Don’t be Afraid to Fail.
Rule #4- Ignore the Naysayers.
About ten years ago, I discovered that I wasn’t half bad at running. I had started a routine of running two miles every morning and running two miles at night. I was also lifting weights at the time. That may have been one of the fittest times of my life. I think I was at 215lbs. I weighed 190lbs as a senior in high school, no muscle. So, I was pretty fit.
I remember I had a pretty stressful day at work during this time and I went to the track. I put my headphones on and just ran. I didn’t count laps or look at the time, I just ran. I was talking to a coworker the next day at work and told him that “I ran about 4 or 5 miles yesterday.” He laughed and didn’t believe me. He thought that at best I probably walked the entire way but I assured him that I ran the entire way, no stops, no breaking pace, and that I could probably run 6 miles nonstop if I tried. Again, he laughed and started making fun of me, and got the other guys to join in as well.
He then challenged me to run 6 miles the next day, non-stop, at the track in front of everybody. If I ran the entire way without stopping even once to walk then I would get $100, if not, then I would pay him $100. “You’ve got yourself a bet,” I said.
Everybody else wanted a piece of the action too but there was no way I was going to cover all those bets. Only one of my coworkers said that I could do it and he agreed to cover all the bets.
He pulled me aside and asked, “Can you do it?” “I think so, pretty sure.” “Have you ever ran that far?” “No, not that far.” “What’s the farthest you ran?” “I think I did about 4 or 5 miles the other day. What’s one more mile?” “When you’re tired it’s the last mile that gets you. Well, what’s done is done. The bets are made. Just get out there and keep moving.”
The following day when I got to the track, I saw that everybody was there already. Even some friends that I had called the night before showed up to watch. It was pretty neat. The initial coworker told me, “I didn’t think you’d show.” “And forfeit all this money? I’m already thinking of the things I’m gonna buy.”
One of my coworkers, G, volunteered to be the official timekeeper and judge. He looked at his watch, 3:55pm, and said “ok, at 4pm on the dot start moving.” I stretched real quick, got to the starting line, and as soon as he said “go” I took off.
The first three miles were easy, as expected, and every time I finished a lap I had a huge smile on my face. I would count off each lap as I went by the bleachers that they were all sitting on. Around lap 18, or 4.5 miles, is when it started getting much harder. At mile 5, I was really struggling. When I got to the last lap, and was about to cross the finish line, G shouted out “No, you still have one more lap.” I thought he was joking and was about to stop but he and Eddie, the guy fronting all the money, jumped out of their seats, shook their hands and yelled “NO, NO, NO,NO, NO ONE MORE LAP!” I kept moving but I felt like all the energy had instantly drained from my body. Coming around what I thought was the final lap, my body started going into cooldown or shut down mode. I thought I was done. To learn that there was still one more lap, made me feel so frustrated that I didn’t even want to try to push around the track for that final lap. My friends must have noticed my frustration because they came running towards me and started running with me. “You’re almost there. Don’t stop now or this will all have been for nothing. You’re literally less than two minutes away from the end.” I kept pushing and finally crossed that finish line. If they wouldn’t have given me that little pep talk I probably would have stopped. I hope not, but it sure felt like it at the time.
I finished, everybody cheered, sort of. It was more of a grumbling-“congratulations. Here’s the money.”
I wanted to lay down on the grass but they told me I should keep walking around. My friend, the guy fronting the money, gave me all of it. He said, “You earned it. It was all you. Congratulations.”
That was a great day. I felt like a champion. But I was exhausted. I drove home, got in the shower, cried in the shower, then went to lay down in bed and I could feel the heat just rising from my body and I didn’t stop sweating for a very long time but more importantly, I couldn’t erase the giant smile that was on my face.
It feels like history is repeating itself because this time I told a coworker that I was going to run 100 miles (my dreams are bigger and confidence in my skills greater) and the response was the same. There is a side bet going on that I won’t finish this race and who knows, maybe I won’t, but if I do-When I do, I know I’ll have the same stupid smile on my face after I cross the finish line…and possibly after some more crying.
“Accept all challenges and feel the exhilaration of victory.”-General George S. Patton