There’s a moment in every hard race when your body wants to give up. In this moment your mind begins to negotiate with itself–what’s the point in going on? can’t I just take a short break? why am I doing this to myself?–a crescendo of arguments against continuing as your muscles howl in rebellion with each desperate footfall. In that moment you have a choice: listen to the cacophony of your inner voices and give up, or drown them out, grit your teeth, and remember what drives you as you find the strength to take step after step after step.
This moment–“The Wall”–is a test of mental fortitude rather than physical endurance. It requires an unshakable clarity of purpose and the knowledge that something is more important than the pain you expect to sustain. In eight short weeks I hope to complete my first Ironman Triathlon, so I’d like to rehearse here what I intend to remember when I hit The Wall on race day:
When I started this journey nearly two years ago I felt I had to prove to myself that I have the discipline to follow-through on the promises I make–both to myself and to others–no matter what it takes. As I stood on the threshold separating college life from the “real” world I felt I had to prove to myself that I have the power to realize my dreams–even the ones that at first sound impossible.
From that kernel came the desire to complete one of the hardest athletic challenges I could find despite still having 10 pounds of my Freshman Fifteen left to lose. In fact, when I first expressed an interest in training for an Ironman, I don’t think anyone took me seriously. Everyone says they’re going to do something like that, they must have thought, but so few people actually do. Their skepticism was fine by me–I’ve always worked best with a chip on my shoulder.
As I started training, the dream slowly but surely came into better focus. After I finished my first marathon something incredible happened: an inspired friend reached out to me and asked to start training with me. Six months later, our group grew again when we inspired my roommate to try his hand as well. In the last ten months, I’ve watched both of them go from little to no prior athletic experience to running a half marathon, completing an Olympic triathlon, and destroying a 101.8-mile cycling race. It’s hard for me to express what it’s meant to me train with them or how proud I am of them for how far they’ve come.
This journey may have started off being about proving something to myself and to everyone who doubted me, but along the way it’s become so much more. It’s become about the camaraderie I feel when I train alongside my friends and watch them achieve things they never believed they could. It’s become about inspiring others to believe as I believe: that often limits only exist where we create them for ourselves. It’s become about proving that this power I have found within myself is not uniquely mine, but instead something we all have latent inside.
So I take this step, and the next, and every other grueling step between here and the finish line for myself, for my friends, and for anyone who dares to dream impossible dreams and seeks the power within to realize them.
Let’s go get ‘em.