Regular People; Extraordinary Inspirations...

About a year ago I set a huge goal based on inspiring story I read about and heard about.  As runners we always hear about amazing people like Dean Karnazes, Scott Jurek, Michael Wardien, etc.  These people do amazing things and inspire us to do the same, at least they inspired me to do the same.  At the time I'd never ran a marathon, I was still 3 weeks away from my first.  I was full of hope; thought I could do anything in the world I put my mind to.  About 8 months later I'd start to give up on that dream.  It happens.  Over this last weekend I received that same inspiration from a much different and better source.  I now have refocused vigilance to reach that goal.

On February 12, '11 I ran my first 20 mile run in my training for my first marathon; the Napa Valley Marathon.  I still can't believe I managed to do that on a treadmill, but I'd done it.  While you train for your first marathon people constantly tell you about "the wall."  No, not the Pink Floyd album, THE wall.  Mile 20.  The point in the marathon when your entire body and mind fall apart.  It builds up a mythical barrier in your mind.  This simple number, 20, becomes the Great Wall of China.  You can't climb over it, you can't go around it, you can't go through it.  Yet somehow you are expected to get through it; break through that wall and continue on for another 6.2 miles.  Up until you run 20 miles you don't understand how and you're not even sure it's possible.  I got on the treadmill that morning wondering if it were actually possible; I got off the treadmill 3 hours and 45 minutes later knowing that I could run 20 miles!  1 week later I did another 20 miles, this time outside on a cold, windy day.  It went better this time, it took me 1 hour 28 minutes despite having more hills, wind and cold to contend with.  Then I knew I could break through that "Great Wall."

At that point I started looking beyond my upcoming marathon.  If I can do 20 miles I'll surely be able to do the marathon.  If I can do the marathon how much more can I do?  Heck, I keep hearing about these people that run 50 miles, 100 miles, 135 miles, etc.  If they can do that why can't I?  So I set a goal; I decided that I would run a 100 mile race within 3 years.  I knew it was crazy but I wanted to prove that I could do it.  The first marathon went well, in fact it's still my PR.  But then came my first hurdle; a stress fracture in my foot.  I found out that I'd been running on it for a while because my nerves in my feet don't feel pain like they should.  I was off running for almost 8 weeks.  I spent that time wondering if it just wasn't meant to be.  I came back from my injury strong; I was able to build my miles back up fairly quickly and even ran a PR half marathon just a couple months after the fracture!  My confidence was creeping back up.

I plotted a marathon and a couple ultras for the fall to prove to myself that I was back and I really could do it.  Well, I did it, BUT they didn't go as well as I'd hoped.  In fact, I really struggled badly (for different reasons) through the ultras although the marathon went pretty well.  My confidence in my ability to do a 100 went back down.  Really, these guys I'm trying to model are more or less professional athletes; why do I think I can do what they do?  I'm just an ordinary guy, not a pro.  I wouldn't say I gave up my goal of getting to a 100 miler, but I kind of let it pass out of my mind and let my focus on it go.  I stopped looking at it as a realistic goal for me.

This weekend that changed.  Some "regular people" I know (meaning not big time, pro athletes) went down to Texas to run the Rocky Raccoon 50 & 100 mile race.  I put "regular people" in quotes because they are anything but "regular".  They are, without a doubt, extraordinary.  My point is, they are normal, everyday folks with jobs, friends, etc that run for the love of it.  They don't have corporate sponsors that send them around the world to races.  They work hard, train hard, have families and friends and pay to go to their races.  They are "regular people" that work hard to accomplish incredible feats.

First, and the one I know best, is Sherrie.  She is a member of the Olathe Running Club just like me and we've run together a few times and she she has given me lots of support and advice since I met her.  She set out to earn her first 100 miler.  Not only did she make it, she beat her own goal by finishing in 22 hours 24 minutes earning her 1st place in her age group and 4th among all women!!  This is the most inspiring performance for me since I have spend time running with and talking with her.  She amazes me, inspires me and encourages me to keep working to accomplish my own dreams.  This leads us to Darin.  I've never actually met Darin in person, but I've connected with him via DailyMile thanks to Sherrie.  He's Sherrie's Ultra running mentor.  He has run quite a few ultras and is an amazing runner.  He ran 50 miles at Rocky Raccoon, then hung out and rested for a while before picking Sherrie up after her first 60 miles and helping to pace her and bring her in for the final 40 miles.  How many of us can say we've run 50 miles then paced a friend for another 40?  Incredible.  Then there's Matty & Ashley.  They are both Trail Nerds (the trail running club that I ran with a few times last year and have started running with more this year).  I've only met them a couple times at Nerd runs.  I hope to get to know them better as I run more with the Nerds, but I am amazed by what they did this weekend despite not knowing them very well.  Ashley ran her first 50 miler and Matty ran his first 100 miler.  Any 100 mile finish is amazing, but Matty's took pure guts and grit.  Blisters, chaffing on his quads, lost toenails and foot problems caused him to really have to struggle through.  None of these things stopped him and he came home with his first 100 mile finisher's buckle.  Again, incredible.

These "regular people" inspired me to look at my goal again.  These weren't pro athletes that get to train all day rather than needing to work for a living.  These people have normal lives yet they find the desire and determination to make their dreams come true.  If they can accomplish such amazing goals then so can I.  They are all stronger runners than myself, I have a very long way to go to get to the point they are at.  But I'm now recommitted to getting there.  In the next 3 years I will run my first 100 mile race.  I'm now working on setting goals to get me to the larger 100 mile goal.  This year it start with a couple trail marathons and 50ks, and my first double marathon weekend in October.  Then, in 2013, I will shoot for my first 50 mile race.  After that I'd like to do a 100k and probably another 50 miler or 2 before attempting a 100 mile.  It's a huge, difficult goal, but I'm lucky enough to have these awesome runners and others here in my local area to run with and learn from.  I have the goal, I have the desire, now it's time to do a lot of hard work to reach that goal.

I am forever grateful to these amazing people for all of the inspiration they have given me.


  1. Love this!! And I could not agree more! I'm so ridiculously proud of all their accomplishments! And as you said now doubt they are extraordinary! You have a goal and I have NO doubt you will get there!!! As my Coach says...its time for EPIC!!!

  2. Bryan, great blog post! I have never thought I inspired people but, am glat to know I have. When I was 235lbs and couldn't run across the street, I never thought I would run a marathon let alone 100 miles. If you put your mind to it and commit you can do it. I like to think about it as ordinary people doing extraordinary things. And I have no dought you can too. And like I said before I would be glad to help you along the way any way I can.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

I don't even know what to title this post.

2015 Blackwater Trail Challenge 50k Race Report

Is It Still A Runner's Journey?