When I woke up this morning at 5am, I didn't think I would run a half marathon, but that's exactly what happened. This article is not about patting myself on the back, but rather sharing the inspiration that compelled me to do something like this in the hopes that you too will be inspired to push yourself beyond your comfort zone today. Because no one knows just how many days we have left on this planet and you only live once.
On Monday of this week, I had dinner with two people who inspire me greatly: Scott Dunlap, CMO of Eaze (who I assure you I'll be talking about more in a future Inc article) and Len Devanna, the President of Trepoint and GM of our San Francisco office. Last year, Len took up running and has since run a number of half marathons. Scott is what the industry calls an Ultra runner and he has run 100 miles in a single day. Yeah, that's pretty incredible.
We got to talking about why they run and I was inspired by how passionately they spoke about something that, until this morning, I can honestly say I hated with a passion. In High School, in addition to Pole Vaulting, I was a sprinter. I would run as fast and as furious as I could simply to get it over with. I could never understand people who would run for several miles ... by choice!
But, as I am now approaching my mid-40s, my metabolism has officially given me the middle finger and I find keeping the pounds off increasingly difficult. While I work out 3 to 5 times a week in Soo Bahk Do, my body has rejected these workouts as "fat burning" and so I find that I maintain my weight rather than reduce it. Turns out the fuel you put into your body's tank is more important than how you run your engine as you get older.
So when I got out of bed this morning, I set a goal of running 4 miles. This is because: (a) I hate running, and (b) I usually run about 3 miles in the gym, and (c) I didn't want to spend more than 30 to 45 minutes exercising this morning. But then something interesting happened.
If you take a right outside my hotel on Lombard Street in San Francisco, you'll come to a beautiful marina. It was about a mile jogging through the streets of San Francisco before you get there, but once you hit it, it's gorgeous. Sailboats lined up next to a pier where you can see the bay in all directions. To the left was the Golden Gate bridge, so naturally I went that way. As I jogged toward this iconic bridge, I wondered if I could get to it from where I was.
This is what forever changed my perspective on running: adventure and curiosity rather than continuously asking myself, "are we done here?
I stopped focusing on how jogging made me feel (namely out of shape and out of breath) and instead focused on my innate curiosity to venture out and explore this new part of San Francisco I'd never seen before. The marina gave way to Chrissie park where I was pleasantly surprised to see many bikers and joggers out there at a little after 5am. This was a culture of pre-work runners and bikers who clearly did this every day (or damn near).
Before I knew it, my Apple watch buzzed my wrist to let me know I was "half way done" with my original 4 mile jog. "Whatever", I thought. Instead I imagined Scott Dunlap and Len Devanna and how they both felt in this incredible mode of discovery. I recalled their dinner conversation as I kept exploring. No longer was I focused on the wrong thing (i.e. "when can I be done?") instead I was asking the right question, "what's up ahead over there?"
Then I saw it. A sign that said, "Golden Gate Bridge Path". Wow. I'd never jogged across this iconic bridge. Let's see where this path leads. As I jogged up a cool path toward the entrance of the bridge, my Apple watch congratulated me on finishing my 4 mile jog. I was just getting started.
The jogging path went under this small, dark, sketchy homeless person bridge which, in retrospect, I probably shouldn't have boldly jogged through the pitch black tunnel without so much as a blinking light. But hey, as my dad used to joke, "it's more fun when you're life's at stake". I'd never really feared someone jumping out and attacking me before, but in that total darkness for no more than 10 seconds, I could see why you never want to walk down a dark alley late at night alone. Total vulnerability. Thankfully, nothing happened. It was all in my head.
By the time I reached the entrance to the Golden Gate Bridge jogging & biking path, I'd hit 5 miles. Never before had I cared so little about my mileage. Instead, I was ready to jog across the bridge and take off a bucket list item that I had only added to my list some 30 to 45 minutes prior.
As I'm going across the Golden Gate Bridge, I'm in total awe. The sound of the traffic to my left is the only sound breaking the total silence. The time is about quarter to 6am and it really does feel like I have the entire bridge to myself. Then a few bikers pass me and I'm smiling thinking just how awesome my life is right now.
The voice of my coach, Chad Cooper, comes into my head at that moment. "Do you want to be the lead actor in your epic blockbuster of a life, or are you happy to play a bit part in someone else's movie?" I smile. I'm feeling unstoppable at this moment. I think about how it's not even 6 am and I've run 6 miles already and still have a ways to go to complete my journey across the bridge.
That's when it hits me! 6.55 miles. I estimate by the time I cross the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge, I will have run at least 6.25 miles. What if I pushed myself just a little bit further and went to 6.55 as my half-way point? Some quick math told me that if I kept going all the way back to my hotel, I'd have run my first half marathon. No cameras. No cheering friends or family members in the audience. But how cool would that be? A new personal best.
Something deep within me welled up. I felt my eyes get wet for just a second. I could feel the tears of joy just beneath the surface of accomplishing not one, but two bucket list items today. I could do this. I WOULD do this. My epic life story just got juicer. Who randomly runs a half marathon without months of training? Sure, I'd feel it the rest of this week, but at this moment, it was time to use that inspiration to do something great and create a new personal best.
With a clear vision of Scott and Len jogging their own personal bests, I found a new source of power I'd never tapped before. I could do this. I would do this. And as I was thinking this, I saw where I could take my "victory lap" to ensure I hit the 6.55 mile half way point: The lookout. On the other side of the bridge (on the Tiburon and Mill Valley side), there is an amazing parking lot where you can gaze upon the awesomeness that is the Golden Gate Bridge. That's where I went and did a full lap around until I saw my Apple Watch tell me I was at 6.55 miles.
As I rounded on the lookout and headed back, I had already won. I knew I was doing this. I didn't care what messages my body was sending me, I was going to make this happen. Not someday. Today. An emotional flood of all my mentors (from Tony Robbins to Master Kwon) filled me with such an incredible sense of purpose and meaning that I felt high. This was the runners high I'd always heard about but never before felt. My mind had (at least temporarily) separated the physical sensors of what my body was doing and instead focused where there was incredible pleasure, joy and happiness. I wasn't running a half marathon, I was living a rich, full life and totally in the moment.
I wasn't doing this for anyone by myself. But I was inspired by so many people that I was completely humbled in a moment of complete and utter gratitude. This was life at it's absolute best. This was something anyone could do. This was a gift and I immediately thought about how I could share it with the world.
For the runners out there, my final mileage count (before cool-down) was 13.13 miles. I ran it in 1 hour and 42 minutes with my beginning miles at around 7 minutes and my last miles around 8. I burned 1,750 calories before 7am. So yeah, I get the health benefits of doing this more often.
But that's not what inspired me to write this. I wanted to share a personal story with you because I know there's something you've been meaning to get to and have been putting it off. Today is Star Wars day (i.e. May the 4th be with you!). What better day to write an epic chapter of your life than today? And if not today, then when? When will you lead an extraordinary life and turn an "ordinary" day into an epic one? Or, as Tony Robbins likes to ask, "When would NOW be a good time?"
Stay inspired, my friends. Find the things that move you to take massive action and do it. As Grandma Beth used to remind my constantly, "In life, you'll regret the things you didn't do more than the things you did." Go be amazing. Be your best self and be inspired by the greatness all around you. That's my message to you on May the 4th. Don't just read this. Do something with it. You'll be glad you did!