I was twenty-eight years old and had recently relocated to Colorado Springs from my home in Iowa City. Other than my roommate and longtime friend Jon Madsen (aka “Mad Dog”), I knew no one. Although comfortable being alone, perhaps too much so, I had decided making a few new friends, ideally female ones, would be a good idea. Every weekend, spring till fall, one could find a five-kilometer (5K) foot race or any distance beyond that to test oneself. Running was the deal in Colorado. Of course there were many other popular outdoor pursuits—biking, climbing, triathlon—but seemingly everyone ran. I had no real interest in killing myself, as I had not run since, well, ever. It was important to keep my eye on the prize: Girls. Preferably, I’d have signed up for the 1K. Sadly, that was not an option.
The St. Patty’s Day 5K nearly killed me. Thirty-three minutes of hell. More than once the thought flashed through my head, I don’t care what she looks like, she won’t be worth this suffer-fest. Running sucks! The thin air of Manitou Springs, a beautiful little town just up the front range from Colorado Springs when not being the location of my 5K torment, was not so slowly sucking the life out of me. I wonder if anyone would notice if I just excused myself and exited stage right...or left. Crossing the finish line, happy to be alive, I vowed never to undertake such a stupid endeavor again. No matter the possible reward that may await. I don’t remember speaking to a single girl, before, during or after. I made straight for the car, wanting nothing more than a shower and a couch, hopeful that I had enough energy to get both.
Driving home, it happened. An odd sense of unfamiliar joy began to manifest. The distance, finish line to apartment door was just a few miles, no more than a ten minute drive. Stepping out of the car, stiff-legged from the day’s effort, I found myself feeling a bit lighter, almost happy as I turned the key in the apartment door. What the hell is happening to me? Moments later, humming a tune in the shower, perhaps something I had heard earlier in the day, it was clear that I was full-on happy. Pulling on a fresh pair of shorts, I grabbed a chocolate milk and made for the couch. Making short work of the drink, I sprawled out horizontal, resting my head on one of the oversized throw pillows. My thoughts betrayed my finish line promise made just an hour earlier. That wasn’t that bad. Could have been worse... 5K’s a pretty long way, man. That’s pretty cool... Maybe I should try another one... I wonder if I could ever go any further than that? I slept.
Fifteen years later, I would become the second person to ever run across my home state of Iowa. Three years after that, I would circle the Great Lake Michigan, the first ever to do so, running 1,037 miles in forty days. Had you shared that vision with me after I had finished the run that day in Manitou Springs, I’d have been certain too much green beer had found its way to your place at the bar.
It is the beauty of this journey we are all on. There are universal truths which apply to all things. Allow yourself to dream, there is almost nothing beyond your grasp. The power of one step, one paddle stroke, one turn of the bike pedal is beyond measure. Ask yourself, “Can I take just one step in the direction of my dream?” It matters not what the dream is. Ask yourself. “Can I?” Of course the answer is yes. The poorest man or woman can take one step towards a life of financial well being. The most out of shape can most likely take just one step towards their first walk around the block. Now, having successfully taken that first step, ask again, “Can I take just one more step in the direction of my dream?” The answer, again, will be yes. Each step reveals the possibility of a next, allowing a vision of what lies ahead that was not possible prior. Eventually, unable to see back to where it all began, you will marvel at where that first step led you. Do not allow self-limiting beliefs to sabotage. Dream BIG. It is not important that you even believe the dream is possible, only that you believe one step in that direction is possible. The next step will be revealed. And so on and so on. That 5K opened the door to a lifetime of adventurous pursuits, marathoning, ultra marathoning, adventure racing, mountain biking. Long-distance kayaking. Each adventure, every accomplishment built on the others, expanded my belief in what I was capable of. All from running a little 5K to meet chicks.
I hope you are enjoying the new book so far. If this is your first visit to the blog, the preceding 5 chapters live here also. As a thank you, feel free to cast your gaze to the right and grab the e-book version of my first book "40 DAYS." See ya next week. Until then,