Will. Persistence. Guts. Discipline. Resolution. Stamina. Grit. Determination. Whatever you want to call it, I’ve been searching for it for most of my adult life.
I’ve always admired people like my husband Tim who plays musical instruments so well; or my friend Misty who earned her degree while working a full-time job and raising three boys; or a young woman named Tara who lost almost 100 pounds after she graduated from high school and is still fit and healthy after 10 years; or decathlon athlete Ashton Eaton who set a new American record at the Olympic trials.
I never thought much about the hours and hours of practice that Tim puts in to play music so well. I never thought about Misty staying up until 2 a.m. writing a paper because she had to wait until the boys went to bed to start on it. I didn’t wonder about the constant calorie counting and the hours of exercise Tara put in to lose so much weight. And, I can’t imagine the training that the Olympic hopefuls put their bodies through to get a chance at winning the gold.
What makes these people so successful? Why can ultra marathoners like David Murphy run 100 miles when it seems so out of the question for most people? It’s true, some do have God-given talent, but more importantly, these successful people seem to have one trait in common – a strong will to keep working even when it’s uncomfortable.
Throughout my adult life, I often thought and expressed aloud that I wished that I had a “strong will.” I had always believed that the discipline trait just passed me by. “I can’t stick to a healthy eating plan.” “I really can’t make myself get up early enough to run in the mornings.” “I never stick to anything very long.” “I don’t have any willpower.”
I said and thought those things so often, they came true.
However, in the past year, I’ve learned some stuff. I’ve seen some good examples of what it means to have guts, to persist in spite of pain and to step up. I began to believe that maybe I could get tougher, that maybe I could quit being a quitter. Lynn Jennings, a great female American long-distance runner, once said, “Mental will is a muscle that needs exercise, just like the muscles of the body.” I now believe that’s completely true. I think anyone can develop a “strong will” once they stop fearing being uncomfortable – even me.
For 12 hours on June 15 at the American Cancer Relay For Life, I learned a lesson in “will” over and over again as the people in our county watched David Murphy run 55 miles on an asphalt track in air so thick with humidity that people sweat through their Relay T-shirts while they were merely standing.
SInce I’ve known him, I always thought running was extra easy for David – that he didn’t have to try very hard – that he was born with some bit of magic that made him have super-human endurance. I thought he was lucky to have such a gift. How nice it must be to just be able to run like that, I would wistfully think.
During Relay, I saw on his face that that it wasn’t easy that sultry Friday night. Even as fit as David is, running in that humidity for so long was hard. Really hard. But he did it anyway. One foot in front of the other, for 55 miles. That’s strong will – persistence and discipline that he developed through hard work. It’s true, David does have a gift, but without his hard work, no one would ever know about it. All the people who started running after being inspired by him would still be on the couch; there would be no Idiots Running Club, no pink tutu and no WOOOOO.
So, thank you, David, for showing us what it means to be strong-willed and how being persistent can take us great distances.
Now, when my alarm clock goes off at 4 a.m., I exercise my will. I get up.