It’s one of FEAR’s core strengths.
Constant chatter in the auditorium of the skull.
Relentless pressure on our insecurities
and erosion of our bravery.
From the moment our eyes open in the morning
until we lie down to sleep at night.
Sowing doubt. Planting false truths
so deeply that they take root
and we start to believe them about ourselves.
Listen to yourself and others.
I can’t do blank, I’m not in shape.
I’m afraid to blank, I’m not good at that.
I can’t do blank, I’m not good with my hands.
I’m afraid to blank, I’m too old.
Danger is real.
You should be very afraid of a charging bear.
A bear will really maul the stuffing out of you.
FEAR is the product of our thinking.
The voice we listen to is the product of our thinking.
“Do one thing every day that scares you.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt
We can’t exist as humans without some level of fear.
It keeps us from doing things
that would cause our certain demise.
Not listening to what FEAR says
can add color, shape and dimension to your life.
It can add joy and depth to relationships
and chia pet like rapid growth as a human.
Since the roll of the odometer from 49 to 50
my hearing has really declined, in a good way.
The less I listen to FEAR
the more I find myself pushing my boundaries
and asking myself, “what am I capable of?”
“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over.
Out on the edge you can see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.”
– Kurt Vonnegut
When Bill Roden asked me
if I wanted to run a 35 mile foot race,
in the snow, in Wisconsin, in January,
FEAR was extra chatty.
I signed up for my fist ultra marathon in 2014.
The Tuscobia 35 Winter Ultra.
I had never run a marathon.
I had not run 17 miles since my high school track days.
To be perfectly honest I wasn’t really running.
I had 10 weeks to get myself from zero to 35 miles.
FEAR had a lot to say over those 10 weeks.
FEAR is a choice.
You can choose to live behind its
high walls and razor wired fences,
or you can choose to use it as fuel
to get to places you have never been before.
I lined up. I ran.
Just like I had done for 10 weeks of training.
I got lost in the moment.
I made mistakes. I just kept grinding.
I finished 5th that day. Overall.
I suffered, and I say that joyfully
because it exposed me to parts of me
I didn’t know existed.
Parts you don’t see in an air-conditioned office
or in meetings,
or at hotels on the west coast.
When I crossed that finish line that day I was given a gift.
I was one notch more fearless.
I was so grateful.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
– Nelson Mandela
Without much hesitation I signed up
for the Zumbro 50-miler.
I had 9 weeks to find a way
to run out there another 15 miles.
The race also started at midnight
so I was going to have to run
through the night in the woods
which I had never done before.
I lined up that night.
And I went to school from the moment
I started that race.
Remember above about danger is real.
I was dangerously under trained
and unprepared for this race.
It was a gnarly, hilly. sandy, muddy harsh course.
I really suffered, especially on lap 3.
I finished. I Finished 38th overall.
It was at that finish line.
Humbled and beaten down
trying to get food and water into my body
and trying to understand what I just went through
another gift arrived.
At Zumbro they announce your name,
and age over the PA system
as you approach the finish line.
I heard this as I looked at the ground in front of me.
Susan Donnelly. 54. Seven time Zumbro 100-mile finisher.
I barely survived 50 miles on this course
and she had finished seven 100 milers out there.
I looked up and expected to see a super hero.
The women of steel. Wonder Woman.
What I saw was a smile.
Pure joy, happiness. She looked like she was getting
her wedding picture taken or the bliss of giving birth
and seeing her child for the first time.
She looked so free.
“He who has overcome his fears will truly be free.”
Right in that moment I knew
I was going to attempt the 100-miler the next year.
FEAR tried to change my mind
leading up to registration day.
FEAR worked me every day for 7 months.
FEAR reminded me I barely finished 50
on the very same course I was going back to.
FEAR told me I can’t run that far.
FEAR told me I would fail.
FEAR kept reminding me it’s 100 miles.
FEAR told me I had only run 2 ultra races
and I knew nothing about this.
Which wasn’t a lie.
FEAR told me I wasn’t ready, wasn’t tough enough,
and I wasn’t good enough.
I signed up. I was going to attempt my first 100-miler.
FEAR said something everyday,
I answered back with training.
Hard training shuts FEAR up.
Marcus Aurelius wrote
“The impediment to action advances action.
What stands in the way becomes the way.”
Meaning that failure is just an opportunity.
It’s a chance to be better, to do better,
to start over, to reevaluate, to grow.
How far into the idea of failure have you explored?
Do we only do things we know
we will be successful at because success feels
way better than failure?
Why is failure such a bad word in our society?
Who is a better teacher? Failure or success?
I crossed that 100-mile finish line.
Tears in my eyes. I finished 13th overall
and was the Grand Master winner.
The race director so kindly reminded me
I was the first grey beard.
Which was a funny way of saying
I was the first 50-year-old to get there.
I crossed it again last year. I finished 13th overall again.
I’m going back this year.
Explore your edges.
Don’t stay in the center.
You don’t have to run 35, 50 or 100 miles.
I never considered those ideas.
I didn’t know anything about ultra running.
But when it presented itself I didn’t reject it.
Fear likes to keep you right where you are.
I could have stayed right where I was.
I would have missed out on so much.
Explore what is possible and impossible equally.
Please don’t listen to FEAR.
“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”
– Joseph Campbell
This post was previously published on over50badasses.com and is republished here with permission from the author.
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