Knowing when NOT to say when

During the course of my running career and over the several years since, I’ve had a hard time knowing when to stop trying. Even repeated failures or disappointments usually do not deter me once I’ve set my mind to something. Some of you might consider me arrogant for making such a statement. Still others may think I’m “a few bricks shy of a full load” for not knowing when to quit when clearly it seems warranted. Since neither perspective places me in a very favorable light, perhaps a bit of explanation is needed.

I’d like you to think back to when you were a kid. I’m talking about those earliest years, mind you. The period in your life when you thought that anything was possible. Then, the first shadows of doubt began to creep into your psyche. Perhaps yours started on the playground. When you realized that you weren’t quite as fast as some of the other kids at running. Or maybe you couldn’t quite make it across the monkey bars like so many of your friends. Perhaps, the shadows appeared in the classroom. Based on the show of your classmates quickly raising their hands in response to the teacher’s question, you began to think maybe you weren’t among the smartest kids in the classroom after all. However it happened and wherever it happened, at some point, the insecurities started. If you’re anything like me, they quickly grew into a catalogue of magnified negative self-perceptions of your shortcomings.

I used to have stored a repertoire of such feelings―each negative experience collectively contributing to a burgeoning cynical personality. As a consequence, I was forever waiting for the “other shoe to drop.” But when I found running, those negative thought patterns began to shift. The change was almost imperceptible at first. But, with each minor victory―a slightly faster time than before―another half mile farther than my previous long run―I was being transformed, both inside and out. On the outside, fat melts away to reveal a sinewy, lean, sculpted body beneath. Within germinates the seeds of clarity, confidence, and vision. That’s what running does to a person.

Inevitably, the transformation spills over into other facets of life. Of course, the degree of change is commensurate with the effort expended and one’s consistency. For some, the process continues until the person reaches critical mass―that place where further expansion is impossible within present boundaries. Any further growth calls for pressing beyond the traditional limitations. And, that’s where the magic happens. As human beings, I believe we are pulled and pushed by an internal force which compels us to strive for something, even if we can’t quite identify what that something actually is. Once something is mastered, as running was for me, we continue to be poked and prodded to expand our horizons―to keep moving forward, toward something.

Perhaps we eventually know what that “something” is when we find it, or perhaps not. Maybe we’re never actually supposed to find it. Maybe our satisfaction is found in the striving. If that’s the case, then I think we should each keep trying, keep pushing to find the something which calls us to forever keep pressing forward―never saying when―despite our own or others misgivings.

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