It was around Mile 2 that I started to feel it.

I didn’t get a good warm up in before we started. My shoes weren’t tied tight enough. As my feet slipped around and burned, I could feel blisters coming.

Worse yet, my running form was poor: my shoulders were hunched, my back was tight, I wasn’t leaning enough and my breathing was nonrhythmic, too deep, almost desperate.

In other words, the “chi running” technique that I had studied and practiced for months and months before this big day — the Run to Home Base 9K Road Race to benefit treatment of wounded military veterans with traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress and depression — was completely escaping me.

Yup, right around Mile 2 I started to feel everything in my body (and in my mind) starting to go wrong.

Excuses were sneaking in. Doubt surged forth and I started to wonder if I’d have to stop running, if even for a moment, in spite of my goal to not stop pushing onward until I hit the finish line.

But around Mile 2 I started to feel something… else.

At the second mile marker, a young man, probably 30-some years of age, who appeared to be a paraplegic from the waist down, was fighting with all of his might to accelerate his hand-operated, three-wheeled racing style wheelchair along the course. …What was I complaining about?

Excuse-making is one of the most debilitating and yet over-active thinking processes we encounter in our daily lives. The nature of excuse-making is that after years and years of existing unchecked, it becomes totally habituated: completely second-nature, unconscious, and so easy to fall into.

When you neglect to notice it, let alone question and challenge your mind’s excuse-making habits, the cycle suddenly becomes very difficult to escape.

No More Excuses

In spite of whatever pain or discomfort I was feeling, I took but a few seconds to cheer on the young man with positive words of encouragement. And in that moment, I felt empowered, myself. Not only because I realized I had nothing to complain about. Not only because I was inspired by his strength, determination, sheer will and true guts. I suddenly felt encouraged by encouraging him to push forward.

My runner’s mindset shifted from that point forward, for the next 3.6 miles. I escaped my own worried, insecure, excuse-riddled thinking as I toughed out that short run by explicitly placing attention on encouraging other runners in the race.

  • I cheered on one older runner, probably 70 years young, as he defied his physical limitations and pushed forward for a great cause.
  • I patted one big dude on the shoulder as he lugged a full, military-issued ruck-sack at a snail’s pace — a veteran’s way of showing of true solidarity and strength with those still serving overseas.
  • There was one limping woman who hobbled forward without complaint.
  • And another young man who, while running, was pushing another disabled participant in his wheelchair. And so on, and so on.

Clearly, there was no shortage of inspiration in this crowd of runners!

“You Get What You Give”

With each moment that I took to cheer on or encourage another person along their path, I felt doubly motivated to push forward, myself.

This road race was not only a physical challenge, but a mental one that afforded me the opportunity to practice what I often preach: that giving liberally actually and literally provides you with immediate and long-lasting reward. My experience on Sunday helped to reaffirm the incredible life lesson about “giving” and “receiving.” You truly do “get” what you give. I don’t know how or why this works. I just know that it’s the truth.

And a relatively simple shift in mindset from “zero sum” to “million sum” — from “I don’t know if I can do this” to “I know that each of us can and will accomplish this” — was enough to help propel me to the finish line in a cool 49 minutes flat, at a modest pace of 8 minutes and 46 seconds per mile (beating out my goal of 50 minutes and 40 seconds!).

All together, we 2000 runners helped raise $2.6 million for wounded military veterans and their families. With your help, my own fundraising efforts contributed $1,330 to this important cause. Thank you.

Take It From Me

No, I didn’t set the world alight with fiery quick feet as the Greek god, Hermes. I didn’t complete the Boston Marathon, conquer a 100k or crush the competition in an Iron Man triathlon. But, really and quite truly, you don’t need to shake the Earth to change it… or even to change your own world.

You can stoke the flames of pure positivity — those which begin in time to sustain themselves without great effort or wasted energy — in your heart, your soul, and your mind by pushing your self-imposed, self-conceived limitations.

You can, at any time of your choosing, decisively conquer your long-standing fears and begin to throw out all of the habituated excuses that have long held you back. As I limp around my apartment in Boston, that’s what I really want you to take to heart today.

PS: I’ll be attending BlogWorld Expo in New York this week. If you’re in town and would like to meet up in person, give me a holler!