What is it that drives us to do the things we do? To set goals? To attempt things that seem just beyond our reach? That to others seems ridiculous, a fool’s errand, a march of folly? Why do we aspire? Where is it that we derive the gumption to set a goal and pursue it? I’m writing mostly of running, but this can apply to anything in life. It can apply to my pursuing an American History doctorate in the face of an awful job market in the mid-1990s. It applies now to my running. When I entered grad school in 1994 I was told to that the prospects for my finding a tenure-track (full time, permanent, to non academics) were slim. That I shouldn’t waste my time. But I had a goal, a dream, a vision of being a college history professor, of writing, and publishing, and teaching. They told me I was foolish and they looked at me as if I were wasting my time.
As a runner, I’ve set a goal for myself. I want to qualify for the Boston Marathon. BQ. That’s the term used but runners “in the know” and the two letters that almost all runners dream about or fancy in their late run fantasies, as they finish their runs strong. If they’re like me, for most of their running lives they dismissed BQing as a pipe dream, something for only the best runners, the elite of the amateurs. I looked at it as something that was nigh unattainable. That to waste energy and effort on it was a fruitless prospect with a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding.
But over time I’ve come to believe that someday I can BQ. Why not? That’s my goal. Goals are meant to be pursued, even if they’re never attained. Will my life as a runner be wasted if I never BQ? NO! Will it be enhanced and strengthened if I pursue that goal regardless of what happens in the end? YES! You see, life is a series of adventures and happenings along a long and fruitful road. It is a journey. Running should be seen this way. We should approach our running in such a way that it becomes a lifetime pursuit, and not something that is dictated by days and weeks. The Journey of my BQ goal will enrich my running life, it will take me to places I never dreamed, push me to work at levels I’ve never considered, and it will make me a better runner in the end.
The runners who dare run Badwater each year, or those who dare to do the Badwater Quad, of running from Badwater to Mt Whitney and back TWICE, have a goal. They want to finish and complete this arduous (some would say insane) challenge. It is seemingly insurmountable, apparently impossible, and surely crazy. Yet they aspire. They dream. They draw inspiration from those who have come before them, those who have succeeded and failed. They do not look at their chances and choose not to pursue their goal because they might not succeed. They take on that challenge. They suit up with determination and drive and they TRY. And even those who fail do so valiantly. They inspire and are inspired. They try and they try again. They fight through challenges and naysayers and they attempt to achieve their goal.
Simple, no? Set a goal and let it drive you. Use negativity from others as a fuel. Use praise from others as a fuel. See yourself achieving and then go and try! Are the runners who fail at events like Badwater truly failures? Of course not. They are worthy of accolades and praise. They are worthy of the admiration of those of us who have dared not try to achieve an impossible dream.
You see, I’m writing this a mere hour after my good friend Megan finished an awfully hard San Francisco Marathon course in 3:33, a 6 minute PR and a BQ. She went into this race with some history. Her last three marathons had not gone well for her. She had to fight off the demons of her marathon past and create herself anew. To return to coaching herself and driving herself to a really aggressive goal of a PR/BQ on an incredibly hilly course. She worked hard, fought negative thoughts, and trained like I’ve never seen another train. She has a drive that I’ve not seen in most people. There is a fire in her belly that pushes her to new heights. She achieved her goal.
I am inspired by Megan, and by the people who run events like Badwater, the Badwater Quad, Burning River 100; by anyone who dreams to attain a seemingly unreachable goal. So as I’ve said before, I want to BQ. I’ve got tons of work to do, but I find myself here with a renewed energy listening to Endurance Planet podcast about a guy trying to run the Bad water Quad. I’m inspired as I sit here and examine the splits of my amazingly talented friend Megan. I want to BQ. This is my impossible dream, my unreachable goal. I KNOW there are those who listen to my show and read this blog who snicker at me. I know who you are. You inspire me too. You drive me to swim, bike, run, to eat properly, to run more efficiently. Thank you for you indirect inspiration. I will hope to thank you and shake your hand when I pick up my Boston bib someday.
I am inspired. I am moved by runners who dare, who strive, who reach for something farther than their grasp. I am inspired because these “insurmountable” goals are really within our grasp, when we make up our mind that they are possible to reach. There is nothing to stop us but us. Our mind sets our limitations. Not people who tell us we cannot achieve or dare to dream.
I’ve made up my mind. How about you?
See you in Boston.
Gordon, as always, you've succinctly captured the thoughts, hopes, feelings, and aspirations of many runners. I, too, plan on BQing one day. I hope to see you at Boston!
This is a great post for any runner to read, no matter if they just started or are in training for a race. I am currently in my 3rd week of training for my 1st half-marathon on 10-10-10 and I think this is a great reminder to just keep pushing!
Gord! Great write up man! I too one day hope to BQ – who knows how far away that is as my ONLY marathon was Disney 2010 where I finished in 4:36 – thats still 1:26 away from a BQ – BUT one day! I will get faster, and my qualifying time will also slowly get more attainable!
Hope to see you there some day!
Gordon, if you didn't dare to dream, life would be pretty damned boring. I ran for 30 years, often thinking of the Boston Marathon and admiring my friends who BQ'd. Occasionally, I would check the qualifying standards and think, “Wow, how can anybody do that?” The problem was, I had the hope, but I didn't have the dream. It was only after I “gave up” marathons and focused on half marys that I began to get faster. Then one day, I realized my half marathon time was pretty darned good.
That's when I got the dream. Now, as I sit here typing this, I can look up on my wall at a plaque that has my name next to a beautiful medal that says “Boston Marathon.”
You CAN do this. You WILL do this!
Gordon this post touches my heart in many ways. First off I am honored that I am included. Most importantly I am so glad that you too have the drive, the fire in the belly. I see this in you, in your training, your determination. I see this in the way you approach your training and weigh loss, your new found veganism…so many ways. YOU will BQ and we will run it together. I will be there to share that day with you. I will be honored to do that! Thank you my friend for honoring me in this post and also for all you have done to support me as I got to my 2nd BQ today 🙂
As they say if you shoot for the moon you'll land amongst the stars which isn't a bad place to be. Aim high and you will achieve some remarkable things! Good luck on the BQ.
Someone once said, “The only true failure is failing to try.”
You can do this, you will do this and you'll cherish every moment on the Boston course!
The BQ is an admirable goal, and one that drives me to get out there every day. You can do this Gordon!
This post is amazing to read right before a run, such an inspirational person you truly are!! You will reach your BQ through all the hard work you put out there. Have fun in all your training!!