The walls are so steep he can't get out.
"A doctor passes by and the guy shouts up, 'Hey you. Can you help me out?'
The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on . . .
"Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up, 'Father, I'm down in this hole. Can you help me out?'
The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on . . .
"Then a friend walks by, 'Hey, Joe, it's me. Can you help me out?'
And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, 'Are you stupid? Now we're both stuck down here.'
The friend says, 'Yeah, but I've been down here before
. . . and I know the way out.'"
"there is no higher calling than to lift another up."
First, everyone runs for his or her own reason or combination of reasons. Many people I know are running to stay away from a bottle or from drugs. Many are running to help heal traumatic events in their pasts. Many run simply because they like to compete. Many run because they feel at their most alive when they are involved in a hard struggle. Many run because they like the way their jeans fit better when they are in shape, or out of sheer boredom, or for the endorphin high, or for the social aspect of the sport, or for all of these reasons, some of them, or even for no articulable reason at all.
Different motivations aside, everyone I know in this sport runs because they feel running improves and enriches their lives, at least on some level, big or small.
As a runner and a coach, I have been blessed to see some remarkable turn-arounds people have made with their lives through running. Alcohol/drug addicts who were literally steps away from death, completely turning their lives around. People with little to no self confidence finding an inner strength they did not really believe was there inside of them. People who were once morbidly obese and barely able to stand up, finding the resolve to take those first steps, lose hundreds of pounds, and completing once-unimaginable goals, such as walking around the block and then running 100 miles. Running -- and especially ultrarunning -- can be and is a transformative sport.
Yes, every runner has heard non-running friends say things like "I only run when I'm getting chased" or "How far is that? I don't even like driving that far." But the simple truth is that even for people training for their first 50-miler or 100-miler, the mere fact you are even attempting such a feat has an impact on those around you, runners and non-runners alike.
I was at a dinner last week for large donors of a regional hospital, and one of the main topics of conversation (among a group of distinguished doctors, businessmen, and other community leaders) was my friend, and how he was training for his first 100-miler in November. People were captivated by him and his story. He is no superhuman athlete and certainly did not stand out in the crowd. Yet there he was, getting asked question after question about his upcoming 100-mile attempt and his training for it.
"I wonder what I am capable of." That seed was undoubtedly planted in many minds that night.
While the sport of ultrarunning has grown rapidly in the past few years, it is still in its infancy. Most people simply cannot comprehend the idea of running such long distances. But that lack of comprehension is also what makes people pay attention. People who reach for the stars and push their perceived boundaries really can inspire others.
Personally, I think this the wrong way of thinking about and discussing "inspiration." That word almost always places the focus on the person doing the "inspiring," not the person who is actually being affected. So why not change the focus to those other people?
Like it or not, just by attempting to run really long distances, you affect others, regardless of how extroverted or introverted you are, or how much you crave or shy away from the limelight. In other words, by your actions, by pushing through your pre-conceived limits, and succeeding in your goals, you are an example for others (willingly or not).
I am not advocating we should all preach the gospel of running/ultrarunning on every street corner. Steve Yzerman, a former pro hockey player, was the captain of the Detroit Red Wings for 20 years, making him the longest-serving captain of any major professional sports team . . . ever. He was a mild-mannered guy who hardly ever gave fiery speeches or pre-game pep talks. He simply played the game the right way and to the best of his abilities. He was an example to others just by the way he carried himself and went about his business.
Running really long distances may seem trivial and silly to some. I agree with that sentiment sometimes as well; we probably all do from time to time. But I can also unequivocally state that by attempting these crazy distances and reaching for your stars up there in the sky, people take notice.
I see daily reminders of just how transformative this sport can be for people. Now look around you. You are affecting people. And you have an opportunity to positively affect the lives of others, in your own way. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "There is no higher calling than to lift another up."
What comes next is entirely up to you . . .