Attempting the Impossible

For the past 3 months I’ve been preoccupied with preparations for my first marathon. This morning I completed what will be my longest run before the big day.

I get a variety of reactions when people find out I’m planning to torture myself by running 26.2 miles – not to mention the hundreds of training miles – on purpose, for enjoyment.

It is admittedly, a bit of a strange obsession. But for me, this process has been one of exploring what is possible.

When someone reacts with, “Oh I could never do that,” I have to laugh. Until recently, I would have said the same thing! Running 26.2 miles was an impossible feat best left to a breed of super-humans known as “marathoners”.

Yet, here I am, registration paid, betting on the expectation that, come race day, I will in fact be able to complete the distance as well.

I clearly remember the first time I ran 6 miles (roughly 10KM) while training for my first race of that distance in 2012. At the time, running for 10KM, without stopping, without seizing up and passing out, felt impossible. When I hit the 6 mile mark, I was forced to re-calibrate my expectations. The impossible 10KM was now possible!

The next year I signed up for a half marathon, but I didn’t actually believe I could run the required 13.1 miles until a couple weeks before race day, when I ran the full distance, just to make sure I could do it.

And now, here we are, 3 weeks away from race day of my first full marathon, where I will again attempt the impossible.

Here’s what I’ve realized as I’ve developed as a runner:

I’m capable of more than I think.

When we say, “I could never run that far,” it’s kind of the truth. The Couch-to-Marathon program isn’t an afternoon workshop. But when we consider what is possible or impossible, we often forget one key part of the equation: you.

You are not a static entity. Just because you can’t run a marathon now doesn’t mean that you could never run run one.

You are a variable in the equation, a living, changing, adapting, growing organism that is capable of more than you think.

Now, we all know that not every child who dreams of flying to the moon can be an astronaut. Genetics, opportunity, passion, and luck are all factors in people accomplishing their dreams. Not everything is possible, realistically, (even if you “just believe”).

But if you’re like me, I bet you often underestimate what you’re capable of.

Zen Pencils illustrates a great passage by British pianist James Rhode on this topic. He suggests that many dreams get discarded early because they look impossible, when in fact, just a small amount of dedication over time would see you realize the impossible.

You might not be a marathon runner or a concert pianist today. But have you considered what you could do if you devoted a small amount of time to daily practice?

It’s still not a guarantee that I will actually be capable of running 26.2 miles, 42.2 KM, come race day. But I’m starting to think that it’s possible. Here’s why:

For the past 3 months I’ve been running nearly every day. My own humble version of The Trial of Miles, or Miles of Trials (a term from the cult-classic Once a Runner). The work that’s necessary if you want to accomplish the impossible. Thanks to a great coach, and encouragement from family and fellow runners, I’ve stuck with it. An average of just an hour a day, rain or shine.

So while race day itself will be a big unknown, I’ve got a hunch that I’ll survive.

And if that’s possible, what else is possible with a bit of persistence over time?