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    Why run? An Unapologetic Cliche

    I am proud to say that on May 25th I completed my third Los Angeles Marathon with a time of 5 hours 23 minutes.  Not my best time, and not particularly impressive for serious runners, but for me it was an accomplishment.  I can tell you, running 26.2 miles is the most difficult, painful thing I've ever done, and it doesn't seem to get any easier year after year.

    So the obvious question is... why the hell do I do it?

    Well, let me answer that question like this: The most common response I get from people when I tell them I've run a marathon is, "Oh, I could never do that."  And the thing I always say is, "Yes you could." 

    You know how I know?  Because I thought the same thing.  I was never a runner - still don't feel like one.  I had friends in high school who ran Cross Country and I remember thinking how foreign and out of reach that was for me.  Then, four years ago, a friend of mine ran the marathon - a friend who I didn't think was in particularly better shape than I, who wasn't really a runner, but who just decided to do it.

    "Well damn," I thought, "if he can do it, I should be able to do it" 

    So I decided I would, too.  And really, that's the thing.  Making the decision.

    There is nothing more powerful than knowing you can't do something and doing it anyway.  There are so many things in life that I cannot control, but deciding to run is completely up to me.

    You know how they say it is all mental?  Wow, is that true.  The process of running a marathon is a titanic struggle between two warring factions in my mind.  There is the army I brought with me - the guy who set out to do this, who has a goal, and is full of optimism.  Then there is the opposing side, the guy who creeps in along the way who, for the love of God, just wants to STOP!

    "Just stop running!" he says.

    "But, I've got to do this.  I want to get a better time!" my side responds.

    "I don't care!  No one cares!  Why do YOU care?  It doesn't matter!"

    "But I'll care tomorrow.  I'll feel terrible."

    "You feel terrible NOW.  Every step hurts!  Why would you do this to yourself?  Just make the pain stop!"

    And it goes on like this for miles.  Sometimes my side wins and I keep running hard.  And sometimes the other side wins, and I slow down (which is why I didn't achieve my under 5 hour goal).  But the process of that mental battle is absolutely empowering.  I've learned so much about myself.  And despite the pain, it is an experience I return to because my army gets a little stronger each time.  Even better, I have the chance to bring that same army to bear in other areas of my life, to know that all I have to do is keep going forward and I'll win the war.

    So there you go.  My sappy inspiration for the day.  I do it because I didn't think I could.  I cannot recommend enough doing something you think is impossible.  It doesn't have to be running (I also cut red meat out of my diet years ago, something that with my love of steak and burgers I thought I wouldn't be able to do, either).  If you do, I'd love to hear about it.  I can sure use the inspiration for my army, too.

    And if all else fails, at least rent the documentary Man on Wire.  That dude REALLY does the impossible.

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    Reader Comments (32)

    Oh, I could never do that.

    May 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFrancois Faubert

    Thanks for an inspirational post Jeff!, i too think that the best way to do something it's just doing it. Also i have those conversations with myself, one side telling me to go on and telling me to stop, but go have to keep going! Sadly i'm not able to run now because my knees are injured, but i can't wait to get back on track.

    And i'll be sure to check out Man on Wire.

    May 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDusan Vlahovic

    As for the decision, I once heard somewhere (forgive me for not knowing where) that "Until you make the decision to do something, all you do is make excuses not to." =) I've always loved that "semi-quote". =)

    About the cutting red meat out, HOW? I've always wanted to do that, but I don't even know where to start. I know I can substitute beans and such for the protein, but eating beans all the time doesn't sound like fun. =/ Any suggestions as to where to start would be great! =)

    - Dustin

    May 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDustin Mathisen

    Hey Jeff,

    Great job man!! That's a huge accomplishment!!

    I was out of shape and HATED running maybe... 8 months ago? Now gearing up for my first half marathon this fathers day, and couldn't be more excited.

    What's fun is because of the training I KNOW that I can do it. Between that, and hearing stories like yours MY 'little army' will have the moral boost to make it through!!

    Again, GREAT job Jeff, keep up the fantastic work!!


    May 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

    Excellent post sir. I know where you're coming from. I mean i'm still at the "Oh, I could never do that point" but the other side is gaining strength. I've started eating a little better, although, i'm consistant. Next step is to start getting in shape. I have to do baby steps otherwise I get frustrated and just quit. Anyway, congrats on making it through the marathon and I look forward to new VAN stuff too!.

    May 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMoose/Goldtooth

    You're a good man, Jeff! Thanks for the inspiration. I've been telling myself I need to go out and run with my daughter, but I'm so out of shape, (insert several more excuses here.) You're right... It takes a decision and then a concerted effort to stick with it.

    Tomorrow's another day... Let's see if we can make it better.

    Love TRS! You guys always brighten my day!!

    Thanks, again.


    May 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCRD

    My story is almost identical...

    I was never a runner (beyond that required for playing other sports). In high school, I remember thinking the people in cross country were nuts. Why would you want to just run?

    Well, in college a friend of mine decided he'd sign up for a marathon, just for the challenge. I thought about how cool it would be to be able to say I finished a marathon, and like you, I figured "if he can do it, I can do it."

    I started training. I ran my first mile since the annual mile run in high school, and I felt like I was going to die. It was torture, but I was committed to my goal. Soon I became addicted to that great "alive" feeling you get when you're done, and before long I got into pretty good shape. My first marathon was a success (I survived and finished in the allotted time), and I keep coming back for more. My goal is never to be very fast, but just to make it to the finish line. I've accomplished that goal over a dozen times now.

    Every marathon is its own battle, both for me and for the thousands of people that have dedicated themselves to the same challenge. The heart-wrenching feeling of "I'm never going to make it" is a frequent foe. Somehow, I always find a way to make it through, though, and in these trying times, the victory is all the sweeter. There have been many highlights along the way, from my first sub-4:00 marathon, to meeting friends and family along the course, to running a marathon with the friend that inspired me to get into running in the first place.

    Running is a great way to stay in shape, both physically and mentally, and the sense of accomplishment in overcoming challenges of both varieties is so inspiring that it spills over into every other facet of your life. It feels so great, you want to pass it on. Whenever someone says "I could never do that," I also say "Yes you could." Seriously, if I can do it, you can do it.

    Now go do the impossible.

    May 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDrew

    Great post Jeff. I was the same with triathlons. I am doing my first one June 6th and it is something I never thought I could do. I was using the same excuse I get the most when I tell them I'm training to do one from people who run marathons; "I would do it but I don't swim well". Well, neither did I but I liked the idea of the variety of the three events and the challenge of going from not being able to swim more then 25m and now swimming 1200m no problem. So Jeff, I challenge you to do a triathlon next. I know your army can talk your other side into it.

    May 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTodd Awbrey


    You might take a look at this article,


    , and then decide if you're a runner.


    May 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Fraley

    I had a great thing going for the past year or so, I would run a few miles 3 times a week, in preparation for the yearly St. Patricks day race. Which is an 8k (not quite a Marathon). After this past St. Patrick's day. I told myself, Ok i did it, take a week off. a week later i thought whats another week going to hurt, or Next monday i'll start etc.. I have yet to get back into my routine mostly because it's easier to just do nothing, or do something else. But after reading your great article, i'm not going to wait til' monday. i'm going running Today!!

    May 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJ Hill

    Congrats mang congrats. Because of what you said is what I use for inspiration every single morning waking up at 5:30 and running and biking. I just completed my first 10k run at 55minutes and the next day did a 30 mile bike ride in the pouring rain. I wish I had a No Fear shirt to wear the next day to work but instead I was proud and wore my bike shirt. Stories like these are like fires that can spread to the next person! Congrats again and like everyone else has said I love the TRS and you guys do an amazing job!

    May 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLawerance Oak

    Holy cow, I love this post.

    I'm not a runner -- yet! (I feel compelled to add "yet!" because I'm one of those people who would have said "Oh, I could never do that," but your post has helped me realize that this is a silly thing to say). However! Your post *really* resonated with me, because just a few days ago I made the decision to do something I don't think I can do -- write a thesis for my MA. I attend a uni that gives students the option of writing a thesis or taking comprehensive exams. The vast -- over 90% -- go with the exams. And honestly, it does seem like it'd be considerably easier to sit through a couple 3-4 hour essay exams instead of taking on a long-term, 100+ page writing project which I will then have to defend...sigh. But I made my decision, and I'm going through with it even though it seems impossible -- hell, BECAUSE it seems impossible. And this is terrifying. Your post put my decision into perspective, and at the same time gave me a taste of how I'll feel once I'm done with the thesis (see how I say that like it's a given I'm going to complete my thesis? My army is kicking ass right now!).

    Thanks so much for sharing your journey, dude.

    May 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteralbie

    WOW! Congrats! My best friend is getting ready to run a marathon to raise money for brest cancer, and I'm so proud of her. Of anyone, really, who goes out and does this. Glad you had a good time doing it as well.

    I've given up soda, if that counts for anything. baby steps I guess! :)

    May 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMeghan

    Great little spot of inspiration. Thanks for taking the time to write this, you have some impressive things to tell the world on this blog.

    May 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKyle Sheehan

    I did my first half-marathon in the beginning of May. The next day, I signed up for my first full: the Air Force Marathon in September. Everyone I tell it to says I'm crazy, but I could not be more excited. There are things that I've wanted to do my entire life, and I'm fulfilling them.

    Way to go to you! My goal is under 5:15 (I did the half in 2:27), so I'll just keep the "chasing Jeff's time" imagery in my mind the whole time. :)

    June 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAllison

    Well said Jeff. Finishing a marathon ranks tops in my list of life achievement.

    It's a good excuse to do anything... "If I can run a marathon, then I can do this <expletive>"

    One advice, don't mix marathon training with basketball. You're asking for an ACL injury. I should know!

    June 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCads

    I am a big fan of you and love enjoying reading your blog. Thank you Jeff!
    BTW What device do you use when you listen to podcasts?

    June 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJ

    Thanks for sharing Jeff. Big fan of TRS here, but I had no idea you were a marathon runner! I was similar to you in that I was going for under 4:30:00, and I ended up with my first marathon at 5:20:03... 50 minutes off pace!!! The dark side was definitely winning out for most of the second half of the marathon, but at least I was able to stick it out and finish!! I'm looking forward to running another one, and hopefully improving over my last performance. It is so true, what you said, about learning about yourself, and what you have inside of you.

    June 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBogeybob

    Big fan. Became even a bigger fan after I found out you were a runner. Now an even bigger fan now that I read this post.
    Keep running strong.

    August 4, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterreverendlisa

    Have you seen this guy? http://runningraw.com/diet.html

    He's ~40yrs old and has a resting heart rate of 38 (Lance Armstrong was 32):

    November 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterz

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