Never underestimate the impossible

Sometimes motivation comes at the least unexpected moments.  And from where you least expect it to. 
I was chatting on the phone with a friend the other day and we got to talking about financial setbacks and how often we see people in our age group – or any age group for that matter! – struggling with making ends meet and debt.  She mentioned she found a helpful program that has helped her and her husband plan for a successful financial future.  I like planning (anything, really) and would love to be able to feel secure about my financial future, especially in the midst of a tumultuous economy.  My friend told me to check out Dave Ramsey, host of a nationally syndicated radio program discussing personal finance topics while strongly emphasizing reducing, avoiding, and eliminating debt.
So I did.  After all, there was always something enriching – or at least interesting – to be learned from a motivational speaker, right?  In fact, I can find infomercials inspiring if the right thing is said! 
So, imagine my surprise when I found tips for running a marathon – yes, a marathon – on a financial guru’s website.  Further imagine my surprise when I had the epiphany that the things I have learned, and continue to learn, in running can should be applied to other all areas of my life!  WHY didn’t I think of this earlier?

Dave starts by talking about his personal training for a marathon in 2007, “I set an intimidating and seemingly unreachable goal for myself: to complete a marathon.  Overwhelming?  Definitely.  Crazy?  Probably.  Reachable?  YES.  There was no question of whether I would do it halfway, just doing enough to get by.  I was going to give it my all.”
Um…HELLO!?!  Been there.  So felt like that!  Ever since I completed my first half marathon just over a year ago, I knew I wanted to train for and cross the finish line of a full marathon.  I know it’s crazy – at least everyone looks at me like it when I mention it – and I now know it will be one of the hardest things I will ever do, but I am going to run a marathon.
Dave hit the nail on the head when he said, “To run a marathon, I knew I was going to have to change some habits and sacrifice in ways I never had before.”
The sacrifices I have encountered thus far in my training have been huge.  And I’ve pushed myself – physically, mentally, and emotionally – to limits I never even knew existed.  I’ve struggled with a knee injury, something I have never dealt with before.  I’ve sacrificed the health of my knee at times to “get the run done.”  I’ve sacrificed my training – including my dream of finishing a full marathon in 2010 – for healing my knee.  I’ve struggled with close friends, and even family, not understanding my desire and more importantly my need to run, at times, above all else.  I’ve sacrificed both my training to make the people close to me happy and I have sacrificed myself to run instead of spend time with them.  With that came hurt feelings on all accounts, further misunderstanding and maybe even some resentment.  I’ve struggled with balancing sleeping, eating, working, hydrating, resting, and socializing with an intense training schedule.  I’ve ended up sacrificing each of these for another at some point.  Sometimes they all get forfeited to running.  I’ve struggled with feeling like a failure.  Feeling like I could, and should, be doing better, running faster, running farther, and running stronger.  I’ve beat myself up over it time and time again, and I’ve sacrificed much of my emotional well-being at times to still run.
In the midst of all this sacrifice, Dave goes on to say, “After months of training, I did it.  I completed the Country Music Marathon in Nashville, and you know what?  All the sacrifices were worth it.  All the people I’ve talked with agree.  The early-morning runs, the loss of sleep, the physical pain and the mental battles are all are worth it in the end.  Yes, I achieved my goal and learned a lot about running, but I didn’t tell you all that just to say I ran 26.2 miles and got a medal for it.”
Let me tell you that again, “All the sacrifices were worth it.”  I know this to be the truth.  Every last one of my sacrifices is and will continue to be worth it.
All I have to do is look back at how far I have already come. 
I’ve lost over 50 pounds and completely turned my health around from being on a one-way track to full-blown diabetes to being completely out of the danger zone.  I went from a thyroid that was completely off the charts every three months to actually reducing my need for medications.  I went from over 50 percent body fat to less than 30 percent body fat.  I went from not being able to run for 30 second intervals to running four half marathons in less than a year.  I went from crash-dieting and near-starvation and feeling like crap to eating the right foods at the right times and feeling more satisfied than ever before.  I went from feeling ugly and fat to the point of not wanting to be around my husband to actually liking some parts of my body and feeling pretty.  My self-esteem and self confidence have improved to the point that I don’t even recognize myself sometimes.  I went from not caring about exercise at all to strength training two to three times per week and lifting weights.  I went from hating fitness and nutrition to being excited about new opportunities both in my own life and in the industry.  I went from always putting myself last to actually putting myself first once in awhile.  I went from the biggest non-athlete I knew to actually feeling like I could excel at a sport. 
And I could keep going.
Dave takes three principles from his training and says, “These principles go far beyond the world of running,” and I couldn’t agree more.
The First Principle
High-performance achievement vs. ‘just getting the job done.’  You have to sacrifice intentionally.  You have to do something different from what you’ve done before to reach a new level of personal excellence.  If you want to distinguish yourself from people who are normal aim high, set clear goals, and give it all you’ve got.”
How many people can actually say they have trained for and run a marathon – even a half marathon?  I remember when I first announced that I was going to run a half marathon.  I stopped people dead in their tracks.  “You?!  Run a half-marathon?!  You can’t be serious?!”  But I was – I still am about running a full – and believe me, it felt good to cross the finish line and see the surprise and the pride on the faces of my friends and family.  Suddenly it was, “Wow, I wish I could do that!  How did you do that?”  Yet, not a lot of people actually get out there and take the first step.  I made up my mind to accomplish something I had never even dreamed of accomplishing before and once I did, I was in it for the long hall, sacrifices and all, and I wouldn’t change my decision for the world.
The Second Principle:
Keep away from negative people.  Stick to positive influences in your life.  Continuous negativity brings you down, so stay away from it.”
I’ve learned in my training that not everyone understands endurance sports, especially running.  They don’t see why you want to torture your body to the point of actual pain, let alone what they don’t know about the mental anguish.  This misunderstanding unfortunately can lead to a lack of support, which can be handled in a mutual “you do your thing, I’ll do mine” kind of way.  But, not only that, it can lead to jealousy and harsh feelings when someone sees what I have accomplished or how happy I am and they aren’t doing or feeling the same.  They want the reward, but none of the sacrifices.  I’ve had to distance myself from some people because their unhappiness and inability to make the commitment to improve their own situation was bringing me down too.
The Third Principle
Visualize achieving your goal.  It’s important to set small goals along the way.  Find out what they did to overcome their intimidating obstacles and what they learned throughout the process.”
Never has it been more important to set small goals along the way than when running.  I ran one mile then two miles then three then my first 5K, first 4 miler, then six miles, 10 miles, 13.1 miles, and someday 26.2 miles.  Everytime I run, I remember what it feels like to cross the finish line, and I visualize myself doing that.  It’s what gets me through the tough races when I want to quit, usually around mile 11, I envision myself crossing the line.  I remember how I felt the first half I ran.  There is nothing that I can say to describe how I felt that day.  You have to experience it to know.  I’ve surrounded myself with people who run – who understand – and who have been running long enough that they have wisdom to share.  I’ve learned a lot from fellow runners and coaches at MIT, through reading books, reading magazines, and following blogs.  And I learn from my own experiences.

Dave Ramsey concludes by saying, “Doing anything halfway should not be an option. Extend this kind of intensity and focus into all areas of your life, and you can and will transform your life for the better.
And I conclude by saying just look at me.  My life has been transformed by running and the power that comes with self-improvement.  I wish I had started to run years ago.  But, I’m not living with regrets.  Running has taught me too much to live like that.  I know that I can set goals for myself and work towards them, and therefore, I know I can achieve what was once thought to be impossible.

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