I had a little revelation yesterday outside of the Brooklyn Park Library. Brooklyn Park is a little far flung from where I live, especially when I can order a book and have it sent to the library down the street. But I was in a funk, and I heard about this book, and it was on the shelf at the Brooklyn Park Library. No waiting, plus it was an action I could take in my stalled afternoon. So I got in my car, got myself a cup of coffee, and drove to Brooklyn Park.
The book is called Endure, by Alex Hutchinson. The subtitle was the hook: Mind, Body and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance. The Curiously Elastic Limits...WOW. It's unfortunate, to me, that you won't likely be funneled towards a book like this unless you are a runner or some kind of endurance athlete, when really this book is for anyone who needs to unlock some part of their mind in pursuit of something they desire. And, as far as I'm concerned, that's everybody.
For me, chasing my best runner self was always going to be about chasing my best self in general. And I always seem to be in hot pursuit of belief. She gets away from me often. Turns out, all the training might be about running her down. I don't just want her dropping in when she feels like it; I want her to be a team member that I can count on. It's no surprise then, that as I'm sipping my coffee and thumbing through the book, I land on the last chapter, titled Belief. Belief, as it turns out, is part of what makes our seemingly set-in-stone limits elastic. Belief, says Hutchinson, is what fuels even the most humble of Kenyan runners each day: "...the Kenyan runner...wakes up every morning with the firm conviction that today, finally, will be his or her day. They run with the leaders because they think they can beat them, and if harsh reality proves that they can't, they regroup and try again the next day."
I put the book down and picked up my coffee. Why was that familiar? As I drove out of the parking lot I suddenly remembered my first, hot, end-of-summer practice of my second cross country season. The year before, my junior year and my first time running, I think I made it about six blocks at our first practice. But this day, a year and many miles later, we took off on our inaugural team run, and I stayed near those top girls. I knew I was going to. I was determined that I was going to. I showed up to do that. It almost killed me, but I stayed on their heels, only falling back slowly at the end. I couldn't believe it! And there it is. I couldn't believe it. I didn't continue to believe it. I was even a little embarrassed that I had tried. Could I have done that all season? Probably not-those girls had much stronger foundations under them. But that isn't the point. The point is, I retreated. I didn't regroup and try again the next day. I didn't believe me. I read somewhere that believing something can be done puts your mind to work for you. Is that the day I started to put my mind to work against me? Have the last 4 plus years of running been leading to this revelation?
There's a cheesy quote that goes "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars." I've often dismissed that quote, which makes me think of yet another quote by the explorer, Ernest Shackleton: "Optimism is true moral courage." Yeah, boy...it takes courage to stay open and get up every day and shoot for the moon. If you know you're on the right path (and sometimes all you have is a knowing) and you have the courage to go for it everyday, then you're going to land somewhere great. You will, at the very least, land somewhere new. The moral courage to believe has the power to take our seemingly unyielding limits and expand them.
Very few things in life are binary, but this might be one of them: Believe in yourself, or don't. I feel like I may have uncovered a buried treasure yesterday in Brooklyn Park. And I think I owe it to Diane past, present and future to shoot for the moon and see where I land.