telling my story

Recently I had the opportunity to speak with a local high school cross-country team about how running related to, and helped in my recovery from the bike accident.

This turned out to be an interesting experience for me in a number of ways.  First of all, the audience was a a group of high school students.  I needed to think about how my story might be interesting to them, and which points might resonate.  Their coach asked me to emphasize the following key points :

We like to emphasize determination, perseverance, and the power of the mind over the body. To believe that you are capable of more than you think.

And so off I went.  Having to distill your own thoughts down so that they’re interesting and relevant to others forces you to think hard about your main points, and what you want your audience to come away with.

I started out by asking some of them why they love running.  Good thoughtful answers – very focused on the mental/emotional side of challenge.  I told the story of the bike accident, and then threw out several rhetorical questions :

  • What would you do if everything changed for you overnight?  This is what happened to me in the space of one second.  Lots of good stuff going on, and lots of dreams put on hold.
  • What are the things that matter the most to you?  When big bad things happen to you, these are your sources of motivation.
  • What drives you to get the best effort from yourselves?  Tapping into this will help you push through a perceived ceiling.

The other key that I talked about was the interdependence of one’s own determination and the support they get from others.  I’ve been thinking about this for over two years, and cannot come up with any way to separate these things from one another.  I talked about how the huge wellspring of support helped me to work through fears and doubt.  And then I talked about how I used running marathons to prove to myself that I hadn’t been defined by what happened to me on that July morning in 2008.

It turned out to be lots of fun, and according to the coach, the runners enjoyed it as well.  The following weekend, the team went down to Portland to participate in the Nike Pre-Nationals.  The girls took 10th overall, and the boys took 4th.  Some of these kids are running 16 minute 5k times – wow!

They work a lot harder at running than I do.  I’ve long thought that concentrating on shorter distance means much more focus on speed.  More pressure, so more focus required.  What I do simply requires that I keep moving, and don’t let my mind ever tell me that I can’t.  It’s easier than having to do that in the face of real competitive pressure.

In any case, it was a great opportunity doing this.  Trying to explain to others what works for you, forces you to think about it, and winnow it down to the essentials.  The powerful part of this is that it’s not really just about running.  It could be about anything we pour heart and soul into.


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