“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions.
Small people always do that,
but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”
Mark Twain, writer
June 6, 1992
South Bend, Indiana
I’m grinding my way through a marathon race – 26.2 miles.
Slowing down for a water stop another runner accidentally bumps into me.
He apologizes and I give him a thumbs up.
“My coach doesn’t think I can finish this race, he offers.”
As we pick up the pace I ask, “Did he really say that?”
“Then he has no business being your coach. Run with me,” I told him.
I have been an avid runner for six years. I feel qualified to offer some advice. I’m 40 years old, supposed to be growing wiser with each passing birthday. My new running partner is a high school athlete running in his first marathon. Our adventure together has begun at mile 18.
“Did your coach ever run a marathon?” I asked.
“No, he never did,” my new friend answered.
“Then forget about him and listen to me,” I said.
We kept running strong and steady.
“Have you ever been stung by a bee,” I asked.
“Yes,” he answered.
“Pay attention now,” I continued. “If a group of engineers were looking at a blue print of a bee, they would say it couldn’t fly. It’s body is too big and it’s wings are too small. But here’s the important news.
No one bothered to tell the bee it couldn’t fly so it flies anyway – because it BEE – LIEVES it can. It doesn’t matter what your coach or a hundred other people say. The only voice you need to listen to is your own.”
We completed another two miles before I decided to ask another question.
“Do you know what the fastest healing part of your body is?”
There was a long pause.
“The part of your body that heals the fastest is your tongue – and it’s also the part that can do the most damage in the first place. What you say to yourself or what you believe that others say to you.”
We slowed down to take in some water and an energy gel.
“Be sure your coach gets a good look at your finishers medal,” I said.
Only a mile to go.
“Now give it all you’ve got,” I said.
The young man must have heard me. He took off like a rocket. I didn’t think I would see him again. To my great surprise, he was waiting for me at the finish line. Wearing his medal and a big smile, he reached out to shake my hand.
Now, 25 years later, I’m still running marathons. I think about him now and then. Does he still have that medal? Does he remember me? Does he still follow my advice? I hope so.
“Left foot, right foot, a whole bunch of times, I think I can, I think I can…”
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