Sometimes you think you don’t have what it takes to accomplish your goals. But armed with the right attitude and the right approach, you can do big things, things that are WAY outside your comfort zone. Like running 100 miles.
In September of 2017, I ran my first 100-mile trail race. Let’s just let that sink in for a minute.
100 miles. Running.
You might be thinking I’m crazy, and I might be, but know that I didn’t just start running two weeks ago and think “Hey, now that I’ve run my first 5k maybe now I should try a 100-miler?” Nope. I’ve been an endurance runner for over a decade. I’ve completed a dozen marathons, several triathlons including an IRONMAN, numerous 50ks (31 miles) and a 50-miler.
I got hooked on trail running after completing my first 50k. I love running through the woods, especially when I’m alone. It’s a very “present moment” activity for me; my brain can’t think about a whole lot other than breathing and where I’m putting my feet, so I don’t wipe out. It’s like my meditation time.
How Can I Possibly Run 100 Miles?
As much as I love trail running and long distances, I had no idea what running 100 miles would feel like. My farthest run before this was 50 miles, which was pretty hard. How could I possibly run twice that distance? I wasn’t sure if I had what it takes to do something this big. I mean, what if I fail? What does that say about me? I had a lot of doubt and fear.
I feel the same way about my business sometimes. How can I possibly succeed at this? It all seems so big! And what if I fail? What does that say about me and my character?
In early 2017 I had to make a big decision about my business. I was a solo entrepreneur running a creative agency. I was doing design work and building websites for clients. I came to realize that I didn’t love the design work and I actually hated building websites for clients. So now what? Something had to change.
I decided I would only do work that I loved and only do things I was really good at. So I started building an online course teaching brand-building to entrepreneurs. I love doing this work! But for me, this new project felt like the business equivalent of running 100 miles. It’s BIG. It’s way outside my comfort zone. There are times when I’m not sure I can make it work, and again I get bogged down with doubt and fear.This new project felt like the business equivalent of running 100 miles. It’s BIG. It’s way outside my comfort zone. I quickly get bogged down with doubt and fear. Click To Tweet
In Business & in Running Things Oft Go Awry
They give you 30 hours to complete the 100-mile race. You can run all day and all night, but if you don’t finish in the allotted 30 hours, it doesn’t count. This particular race was a looped course. You had to run six loops, and each loop was around 17 miles.
I started running at 4:00 pm Friday and kept running as the sun went down. I ran all through the night, in the dark and the cold, and then finally saw the sun come up Saturday morning. I ran all day Saturday. I was still running when the sun went down again Saturday evening around 8:00 pm.
For most of the race, I did pretty well. I ran smart. I kept a slow and steady pace. I didn’t push myself too hard, but I also wasn’t slacking. I had to keep moving. That 30-hour cutoff was always on my mind. Then I hit mile 83. I had one more 17-mile loop to go. My feet were killing me; they were super swollen, and I had developed some pretty awful blisters. My insides were wrecked. All I could eat were Saltines and pretzels. I was beyond tired; I had been running non-stop for more than 24 hours. And to top it off, I knew the sun would go down before I finished, so I’d have to run in the dark again. I was pretty beaten down at this point. Doubt and fear came screaming back to me.
I can kind of feel like this in my business sometimes too. I can work hard for days and months trying to build my email list, trying to gain more podcast listeners, trying to create lessons for my online course, and I just can’t seem to gain any traction. It all starts to feel too hard, and I don’t see how I can go on. How can I possibly succeed at this?
The Finish Line
But then something switched on inside me when I started running that last loop. I felt a new fire burning inside me. (full disclosure, this could have been related to some GI issues I was having, but I like the analogy, so I’m going with it.) I had to dig deep, but I was determined to get this thing done. I started running faster. Where was this coming from? My wife joined me for the last 13 miles, and we had a blast running together! We were cracking each other up, laughing, and enjoying the part of the race that usually destroys people.
I came out of the woods and saw the finish line up ahead. I could hear people ringing cowbells and cheering me on. A bunch of people I don’t know lined up on either side of the finisher chute and high-fived me as I crossed the finish line. I did it! 28 hours and 48 minutes… of running.
I just ran ONE HUNDRED damn miles! And then I felt all the feelings – elation, joy, exhaustion, and then finally, sweet relief.
Building the Success Engine
I was thinking about that energy and drive I had at the end, that burning desire to finish, and at first, I wasn’t sure where it was coming from. Then it hit me – I had been training for this, for almost a year! I didn’t just get up off the couch one day and decide to run 100 miles. I put a lot of time and effort into getting myself ready for this monumental endeavor.
I wrote out a solid training plan, and I stuck to it. I ran in the winter when it was freezing cold outside. I ran in snow and ice, and on days when the wind chill was below zero and any exposed skin would freeze. I ran in the middle of the summer when the heat index was over 100º. One night I did a 30-mi training run from 10 pm to 3 am just to see what it would feel like to run alone in the dark. (FYI, it felt pretty weird and creepy). I ran with friends, and I ran by myself. I ran every Saturday and every Sunday, even when we were on vacation.
I never missed a training run. I showed up and ran, even when I didn’t feel like it.
For months I visualized crossing the finish line. I could see it as I came out of the woods. I imagined people cheering; I would feel the elation and the relief. I held this vision in my mind for months of tough training, and I held it in my mind for most of those 100 miles.
So when I dug deep, I wasn’t just pulling something out of thin air, I was tapping into this engine I built from over a year of consistent training and hard work.
It was my disciplined training that gave me the courage, the energy, the determination, and the grit that I needed to get the job done.When I dug deep, I wasn’t pulling something out of thin air, I was tapping into the success engine I built from over a year of consistent training and hard work. Click To Tweet
A few days after finishing my race, when my mind and body could function somewhat normally again, I had an epiphany.
What would it look like if I approached running my business like I approached running 100 miles?
If I can crush a big hairy ass running goal like that, what business goals could I conquer? I should be able to do some pretty amazing things, I mean it is called “running a business” after all!
I started thinking about how I would approach my business from now on.
What if I had super clear goals and mapped out a clear path for how I was going to achieve them? For example, what if I wrote up a detailed plan of action for each day? What if every day I scheduled specific tasks and got them done?
What if I stuck to my plan, no matter what? What if I showed up to work, even when I didn’t feel like it? I mean, if I have the drive to run 30 miles all alone at 3:00 in the morning I can certainly sit down and write a 300-word blog post, right?
What if I kept going, even when things got hard or weren’t working? If no one signs up for my email list or buys my course, should I quit? Or do I keep at it, tweaking and pivoting, learning as I go, and continually trying to make things better?
What if I approached my day like I approached running on trails? What if I worked on being more present-moment-focused on the task at hand, and didn’t get so overwhelmed by everything on my to-do list?
What if I visualized reaching my business goals? What if I held that vision in my head for a few moments each day and imagined the feelings of success? Would that help when things got tough?
Call to Action
Not for one minute am I suggesting that you sign up for an ultramarathon to figure out how to succeed in your business. But take a minute and think about the big, hairy, audacious goal that’s looming over you in your business right now. What big thing is WAY outside your comfort zone that you think, “Man, I don’t know if I can do this, I’m not sure I have what it takes.”
What would it look like if you set out to reach that goal with the drive and determination that I put into running 100 miles?
Armed with this attitude and this approach, what do you think you could accomplish?
What’s your “hundred-miler”? Share your big, hairy, audacious goal in the comments below.