28 Days of Inspiration – Day 26

28 Days of Inspiration

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Cliff Young

He didn’t know he wasn’t supposed to be able to run a 544 mile ultra-marathon.  Hell, he was a potato farmer – what did he know about endurance running?  He showed up one day at the starting line of an 875K race and won.

In fact, he took significant time off the world record for similar races.  He was 61-years old in 1983 when he won this race.  Take a look at my times this year, I haven’t come close to winning a solo race of any distance. He didn’t just win, he CRUSHED it.  544-miles at aged 61.  I’ve spent the past year running races, slowly building up distance from a 5k in February to a half-marathon in October.  I’ve run training runs, pushed myself as much as I can.  Cliff Young ran the inaugural  Westfield Sydney to Melbourne Ultra-marathon…and won.  I must be a loser – I’ve been running my butt off this year and I’m struggling to get mediocre times on some fairly modest courses.

The lore will have you believe he’d never run, just strolled up to the starting line – oblivious to the challenge ahead of him – wearing overalls and rubber boots.  A real naif.  He didn’t understand ultra running so he didn’t know he was supposed to run for 18 hours and sleep for 6.  A great story to be sure.  But incomplete at best, and misleading at worst. Take a look at the video below.

So far as I can tell, he really WASN’T a runner and he really WAS a farmer.

But this wasn’t his first attempt; he didn’t just show up and decide to run.  Perhaps in 1982 when he attempted a 1,000 mile effort one could argue he had no clue – after all then he had only trained for a few months.  Upon failing half way through he wrote he and his support team were inexperienced.  You don’t just stroll up to a starting line in work boots and spend 6 days running a 550-mile race without having done SOME work.  In this case he had been training.  He knew the challenge before him.  He had a plan and he worked that plan.

Merriam-Webster defines “Inspiration” as “something that makes someone want to do something or that gives someone an idea about what to do or create : a force or influence that inspires someone.” I tend to think watching the results of another’s hard work and effort toward a goal is far more inspirational than hearing a story that’s been sanitized, cleaned up and repackaged.  Cliff was ridiculously inspirational but not because he showed up one day out of the blue and laid waste to a field of other runners en route to finishing an ultra-marathon, but because he worked his ass off as a 60-year old to position himself to be able to do that.

He wasn’t some rube fresh off the farm who decided to run an endurance course because he had time on his calendar.  He planned this.  He worked for this.  It’s unlikely that a 61-year old man is going to win an ultra marathon, but that’s the inspirational part of it. He worked and trained.  We don’t need to embellish the story; we don’t have to make up or gloss over the reality.  The facts are remarkable on their own.

Be inspired because he had a goal, worked his ass off for it and made it happen.  There’s nothing inspirational about flukes or luck; there’s everything inspirational about someone deciding they’ve got a goal that they’re going to make happen. Cliff’s story makes for a great tell, but bear in mind his wasn’t the story of unexpected glory, his was the story of hard work paying off.

28 Days of Inspiration – Day 25

Setting Goals, Working Plans

One of the truisms of New Years’ resolutions is that they’re hardly ever met.  We’ve all heard the maxim that it takes 21-Days to form a habit that sticks.  If I can make my January 1 workout routine stick for three weeks, I’m gold.

Well, it takes about three times that amount of time.  So it’s day 22 and you really don’t feel like going to the gym, by you’ve done it for 21 days so it’s okay to skip a day… and pretty soon you’re not going. If 21 days were the gold standard, I wouldn’t be pumping out Day 25 of my daily inspirations no less than 7 hours too late to get it in on the proper day.

I’ve found it exceedingly important to set goals for myself that require a plan: I’m going to run 46 races this year, I’m going to go back to school and earn an MBA, whatever.  I find that I’m often too conservative with my plans: I hit 46 races in August, meaning I had 4 more months to run races; I finished my MBA a semester ahead of when I planned.  That’s fine though, its the goal that’s important and having a target to shoot at.  Once the goal is set, and I communicate it out to hold myself accountable, there’s only the plan for how it’s going to happen left

I think of it this way: if I don’t already know how to get somewhere, I have to have help getting there – a map, a gps, a friend who does know the way.  If I haven’t built the habit, I need to chart out what I need to do to reach my goal.

When I get those goals set, I start working the plan.  This works great for things I DO want to do, but it’s particularly important when I don’t want to do things.  To this point,  the inspiration to more frequently do laundry or make the bed just isn’t there, but these things have to get done.  I haven’t been able to inspire myself enough to get a goal around these, but I know if I do it’ll get done. I would like to be better about doing things I don’t want to do, and perhaps that will be my next goal.

If you don’t have a habit – remember, throw that 21-day jive out the window – you’re going to need a goal, and a plan to get to that goal, and the commitment to work the plan.  It’s easy to fail, it’s ridiculously easy to back pedal or go off course.  Good plans will help you recover.  A solid relationship with yourself will help you decide if you can commit to a goal – if you REALLY want to achieve that goal.

 

28 Days of Inspiration – Day 21

Patrick Downes & Jessica Kensky and Adrianne Haslet-Davis 

On April 15, 2013 their lives changed.  While at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, then recently married and Boston area natives, Patrick and Jessica were there to enjoy the day.  It was that day they became victims of the Tsarnaev brothers first bomb in their bombing attack.

It was that day Adrianne fell victim to the second bomb in the attack, opening her eyes to find her left ankle and foot missing. A professional dancer, she was looking at her life’s work and direction irrevocably changed in an instant

This year they demonstrated ridiculous resilience when Patrick became the first marathon bombing survivor to come back to the race and finish it on foot.  Through it all, Patrick and Jessica have stayed together and become stronger.  Three years after the attacks, Jessica is still undergoing surgeries. He’s lost a leg.  She’s a double amputee.  This is still a fresh wound for them both. Adrianne also lost a leg and took up running because of her injuries – not in spite of them.

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Patrick raising his arm to approach the finish line.  From the NY Daily News.

Patrick didn’t know it, but he finished the race at just about the time the bombs first went off that fateful day completing the race in 5:56:46

“[When I first started] learning how to use the blade, I made a pact with myself that I would at least try to run. I [thought], ‘Gosh, this blade is so difficult to use,’ so I decided to make it a challenge that I would overcome.” Adrianne Haslet-Davis 

Adrianne too was at the 2015 Boston Marathon, as a dance performer at the finish line.  This year it took her about 10-hours to run her race. Less than a year after the bombing, she performed on Dancing with the Stars.  From the beginning she knew she was in for a challenge.  She accepted it, and worked on advancing.  She did not quit.

Neither were runners previously but have used their life experience.  All of them could have easily succumbed to the ease of “giving up.”  They could have easily have made excuses for themselves, to feel sorry for their condition, to allow themselves to hate the Tsanaevs for what had happened to them.

When you focus on hate, you don’t allow yourself to grow, to change, to rise above.  All three of these people have risen to become more powerful, more inspirational than they were before.  Patrick was running to raise money – $250,000 – to fully endow a scholarship for disabled students.  Adrianne was running to raise money for Limbs for Life, a charity for providing prosthetics for those who cannot afford them.

There is nothing routine about completing a marathon.  There is nothing routine about experiencing life changing circumstances, and resolving to accept the challenge.  There is nothing routine about accomplishing goals and then setting them higher.  It takes mental fortitude, resilience, and commitment.  And ANYONE can do it, but not everyone does.

28 Days of Inspiration – Day 15

Rucksgiving and the New England Spahtens

Over the past year, I made a commitment to myself that I was going to run 50 Obstacle Races by age 50…which then morphed into 46 Races in 2016 for my 46 years…which has again morphed into getting as many done this year as I can.  As part of this evolution, I’ve connected with some wonderful people along the way, see here Joel Chavez the man representing Day 3 of the 28 Days.

One group which which I’ve connected is the New England Spahtens, a local obstacle course racing (OCR) enthusiasts team that has over time morphed (not unlike my race list, nor would that be coincidental to my own list) into other races, fitness activities, and social events.  After all, it’s a team, right?

OCR is an interesting community.  It’s designed as an individual challenge, but we’re social animals and want to engage these pursuits with other similarly minded folk.  I’ve noticed several “teams” of this kind in various places: joining is optional, there are no membership fees, no one gets cut, be as active or passive as you want.  If you want to register for a race, but the team hasn’t been formed, form it.  You can confidentially register for a race, join/create the team and you’ll have the support of others even if you don’t know them.  They’re there to support you, perhaps help you over an obstacle with the sole purpose of sharing the sport and making it accessible to as many as who want to join.

For the past two years, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the Spahtens marshal as many volunteers as they can, loaded with donations and carry  ruck sacks stuffed with the gear around a route through Boston to carry donations to the less fortunate. This isn’t an administratively heavy endeavor (read the blog post, linked to here – this is a general call to arms, some pre-planning, and general strategy on the fly).  There are no news crews covering the story, no administrative costs.  Just teams of people caring for others, while living the purpose of the group – health and fitness.  It’s a marriage of the mission and vision of healthy activity, and supporting others.  And it’s ridiculously inspirational.

 

 

28 Days of Inspiration – Day 11

“Too Fat to Run” Julie Creffield

Julie is a marathon runner and has been for over ten years.  She’s also plus size – Size 18.  Her doctors told her she was too unfit to run after she pulled a muscle in her back. She was so inspired to prove the doctor wrong, three weeks later she ran the London Marathon and later founded a website “The Fat Girls’ Guide to Running” at toofattorun.co.uk.

The idea is to inspire people to get out and exercise.  Overweight people are particular risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke among other health concerns. Julie’s site is part running club, part blog, part motivational speaker booking agency.  She’s all about getting plus size women out and active, running for their health.

Yesterdays entry was about speed.  She’s actively reaching out to women to try out different techniques for increasing their running speed.  Consider this: instead of advising other plus size women they’re too unfit to be running, she’s encouraging them to be out there and active.  Not only active: faster. If they want to be.

I always say to women that are just starting out that your running speed doesn’t matter, the most important thing is to get out there as often as you can and to learn to enjoy the sport regardless of any improvements of speed or distance.

Its incredibly important to find empowerment when perhaps you’re feeling vulnerable.  The last thing someone needs to hear is that they can’t do something.  Here’s someone asking people to get out there, be active, and enjoy themselves. To continue to work toward their goals.  Consider this tidbit from the CDC: “Physical activity reduces risks of cardiovascular disease and diabetes beyond that produced by weight reduction alone.”

It’s more important to be active to reduce the risks of heart disease.  Julie is out there encouraging women to get out there and be active.

 

 

28 Days of Inspiration – Day 3

Joel Chavez

Maybe not a name you’ve heard before, or if it is, I’m probably not referring to the same person.  Joel isn’t famous, although perhaps he should be.  He’s an ordinary guy, so far as I can tell, facing extraordinary circumstances.

You see, I “know” Joel through Facebook.  I’ve never actually met him, I may have commented once or twice on his posts, but we’re connected through a mutual group for Spartan race enthusiasts.  He’s ridiculously dedicated to his workouts, is impossibly toned, and so far as I can tell runs as many obstacle course races as he possibly can.

By all appearances, he’s dedicated to his two young kids.  I don’t think he lives with them both because he’s posted that mom hasn’t let him see one or both of them – Facebook is such a strange medium: it allows you into people’s lives without really knowing them and without all the details of their lives.

Here’s what I do know: he’s in his late 30’s, with two young kids – everything in the world to live for. And he’s got cancer.

So far as I can tell, it seems aggressive.  He undergoes chemotherapy frequently.  Almost as frequently as he goes to the gym.  He shares inspirational quotes speaking directly to him.  He shares his optimism heading into treatment, the less than optimistic news he receives from the doctors, but he always seems to buck up. I’ve seen him post despair, but he finds something to hold onto and crawls back.  It must be exhausting, but he continues to find a way.

So many people would back off, crawl into a malaise, give up.  Joel just keeps pushing forward.  I couldn’t be more impressed at his stamina and his will.

I can’t begin to imagine the struggle and the fight this man is waging.  His strength – physical to be sure, but mostly his emotional – is so inspiring.  Where some say that their family inspires them, he demonstrates that through his virtual presence.

Now, I realize that on the internet no one knows you’re a dog, but he’s not looking for aggrandizement.  He’s just a guy.  A guy who’s facing a struggle but making the best of it.  He’s living his life where others might quit.

Here’s to Joel and his battle, and more particular, his spirit and courage.

Update: Today Joel shared news that was not good.  He has lung cancer, and two years ago he was given 18-24 months. He says himself that he knows he’s on borrowed time, but that he was scared to learn how massive the tumor was and what the likelihood that his cancer has spread.  He’s facing further diagnostics this week to determine next steps.

Those next steps have brought with them the knowledge his cancer has spread to his brain and within his lungs.

I learned a little more about the man from that.  He has his good days and his bad days, but he shared more today than I’ve seen him share to this point.  And it’s through that sharing that I learned just how much more I look up to him, just how inspirational his fight, his attitude is.  He’s truly a man among men, and someone I admire tremendously for his courage and will.

Beware For I Run Fearless…

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On Saturday, I completed race 46 of my goal 46 in 2016.  The Ragnar Trail Run is a three loop trail race, completed with a team of 8 with each runner completing all three loops, and in this case it meant covering about 15 miles over the course of however long it takes one’s team to complete the circuit.  Except my team was short runners…and half way through, we had an injury.

My 15 miles became 24, 19 of which were run in the second 12 hours of the race.  It was a monstrous race.

I’m a street runner.  I’m an obstacle course fan.  Elevation gains and long distances arent my thing.  Coming down that last trail – the longest, highest elevation – running, running, running…almost unable to stop, with quads screaming to stop and yet not being able to – it was a feeling like I’ve never had, truly something alluding to what I have to believe hell must be like.  Being Ragnar, and being the last runner, as I came to the transition area to complete the race, my team joined me to cross the finish line together.  It was an amazing, awesome conclusion to the race, but a fantastic way to mark the completion of my 46 race goal.

These were folks I had met only for the race.  I didn’t know any of them.  Not one.  I responded to a Facebook post looking for team members.  Their only interest in me was that I was filling a slot that would have otherwise gone unfilled.

41337066_race_0-9710193401717151-originalAnd, yet, by the time we crossed the line together, this was their goal too.  It was important to them that they were a part of this for me.  I heard them talk with pride about the fact this was my 46th race on the year.  I kept the bib.  It was important to me, and it was important them.  That meant so much to me that over 28 hours,  we went from strangers to friends bonded by the completion of a goal.

It was a powerful experience; not just the completion of my original goal, but how these strangers came together to care about my goal.  Years from now, I will look back at 2016 and I will remember this experience fondly.

This year has helped me be fearless about setting goals.  Fearless of taking on unknown challenges.  Fearless about pushing myself for more, to be better, to compete in the unknown.  And this has made me powerful.  I’ve taken chances.  I’ve lept from safety and pulled the ripcord, not knowing where I would land.

I honestly thought it would be more difficult to accomplish than it was, but as I look back I realize I’ve relied upon my old friends, stepped out of my comfort zone and met new friends, and have joined strangers who have become friends.  It’s been a fantastic year and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year holds.

I met one person in March by happenstance who has become a solid race buddy.  I met another guy who responded to my call to join our Ragnar Relay team with whom I’ve now run a couple of other races and recorded our #Kill22 pushups together at the Providence City Hall. I jumped into a pool of ice water in the middle of February just because I was asked to, to raise money for a kids’ camp.

I feel incredibly powerful for having met my goal.  I feel incredibly blessed for having met so many wonderful people in my year of running.  I already know how ridiculously blessed I am for having such a fantastic peer group of old friends supporting me.  My family has been so loving and supportive.  Nothing happens in a vacuum.  I’m living proof.

Beware I am fearless and therefore powerful.