Break through the wall named ‘impossibility’

  • This was printed in April of 2014 in The Madera Tribune, a newspaper in Madera, California. This was the 46th installment of my weekly column, Mind Over Miles.

The late Nelson Mandela once said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

In running, there are no truer words.

When you start out as a runner, before you even call yourself a “runner,” a mile may

seem impossible until you run it. Then a 5K may seem unattainable, until you cross the

finish line. A casual 5K runner may think a half marathon is out of reach — until it’s not.

And even some half marathoners I know who’ve said they’re “only half crazy” and

would never do a full 26.2 have signed up for one.

Qualifying for the Boston Marathon seemed impossible to me when I crossed the finish

line at my first marathon seven months ago. Boy, was I wrong. BQ? Done.

What else is possible? How fast can I get? What can I strive for next?

I’ve been looking to others to try to answer those questions. In competitive running, that’s

not a bad idea.

It took one guy, Englishman Roger Bannister, in May 1954 to break the four-minute mile

— a feat that hadn’t yet been achieved — and also tear down the psychological wall that

had been thwarting competitive milers.

Two months later Bannister broke the four-minute mark again, along with competitor

John Landy of Australia at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games.

One guy did it and the rest followed suit. As the years progressed, more and more men,

and eventually high school boys, broke four minutes in the race. Someone did, so they

knew they could too.

The great thing about running with a group, like my beloved Wascallys, is that teammates

are tangible examples of progress and can help each other bust through the psychological

wall of “I can’t.”

Running marathons was something I’d never thought about in my wildest dreams before

a year ago. Then I started hanging out with people who run marathons, and I started to

believe that I could too. And then I did.

Two weekends ago two Wascally women, Madera’s Audrey Crow and myself, qualified

for Boston. Since then, I’ve felt a renewed energy in our group. I have a strong feeling

there will be more than a handful of Wascally Boston Qualifiers by the end of the year.

It’s been proven possible, and optimism is manifesting.

“I used to run just to run,” Audrey told me last week. “I had heard of Boston but I didn’t

really look into or it or think I could qualify for it. Then I met you.”

On her fifth marathon, Audrey shaved — no, slashed — an hour and five minutes off of

her debut marathon time to BQ. You could definitely see the pride and emotion on the

faces of her parents, Sam and Lena Cortez, who ran the Boston Marathon in 1990.

There are ultramarathoners in our group who’ve run 50Ks (31 miles), 50-milers and even

100-mile races. On Saturday I’ll get to witness three amazing friends finish the American

River 50-Mile Endurance Run in Folsom, and even pace one of them for the final 9-mile

stretch.

The more I hang out with ultramarathoners, the more I think that 50 miles isn’t so

impossible.

***

You, too, can catch the running bug and join us Saturday, April 26 at 8 a.m. on the

LoanMart Madera Speedway in the Madera District Fairgrounds for the inaugural Second

Wind 5K. Visit http://www.secondwind5k.com to register. You can run or walk; the point is you

should get out there and see that it’s possible for your feet to carry you 3.1 miles.

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