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At the age of 38 years old, I began running. It wasn't much at first. I remember walking before reaching the one mile mark during my initial attempt.
But I kept going. Within a few weeks, one mile turned into two and then a 5K (3.14 miles). Soon I could run for an hour (six miles!), then two hours.
One weekend I took off early on the trails to see "how far I could go." Nearly four hours later, I had run over 20 miles and felt like I could have kept going for more.
Stepping Out in Faith
Over the next year, I continued to enjoy running and discovered there are actually races for people who want to take on ultra distances of 50 or 100 miles or more. They are known as ultrarunners. I wanted to become one of them.
By the following May, I had done my homework with plans for running up to 100 miles. Then I discovered a race a four-hour drive from my home that offered various distances from 5K to 100 miles and everything in between. At only 5K per lap, I could leave my supplies at a small table and carry only a few items.
I told my family I was going on this run to see "how far I could go." (Notice a theme?) I had told no one else of my plan to attempt 100 miles. My only official race had been a 5K nearly a decade ago that I ran because the entry was given to me for free. Jumping from no racing to 100 miles was foolish.
Or was it?
The Moment of Truth
The May heat in Greenville, South Carolina exceeded 90 degrees and was closer to 100 with humidity. Many people dropped out throughout the day. I personally began walking much earlier than expected.
Just like my little jogs in the forest, one hour turned into two, then three. By nightfall, I had completed over 50 miles with over 12 hours to go. In my mind, I knew that even if I could walk quickly the rest of the time, I would finish before the time limit.
24 hours and 20 minutes later, I came stumbling across the finish line. It was nearly 8:30 AM on a Sunday morning. Few people were there to experience the completion of my crazy goal, but I didn't care. I wasn't running for them. I was running to see if I could actually accomplish something I previously believed was impossible.
The best part? I actually placed third overall and was the second male finisher. I had no idea how well I had done, since runners were scattered far apart by that time.
Looking back, I ask myself now, "How was that even possible?" Two things come to mind that continue to fuel my running and my life.
First, I believed it could be done.
In other words, one of the greatest limits was the previous limit I had put on my mind. Once I decided I could do it, should do it, and would do it, the only matter left was to do it.
Second, I simply put one foot in front of the other.
Many people can run a lap or a mile. Tens of thousands of people run a marathon in the course of a year. But 100 miles? At one time? You may rarely meet a person who can claim this accomplishment.
However, the same process applies at one mile and 100 miles. One step after another, over and over again. Slow and steady often doesn't win the race, but it does finish the race.
There may always be someone faster, but your goal is to finish well. This is true in running and in life. Don't let others determine how far you can go. Don't let anyone else tell you that you don't have what it takes.
Just keep going, one foot in front of the other.