You Can Do It, Even if You Think You Can’t. (And Not for the Stereotypical Reasons You Might Be Thinking About.)

Last week, I wrote and published a post called “Cool Moon 50-Miler: I Hallucinated, I Ached, And I Threw Up Blood. But I Finished.” But that’s not the post I originally thought I would be writing. In my drafts folder, there sits a quite different post, called “I’ll Take DNF over DNS Any Day | Cool Moon 50M.”

For my friends who actually have a life and therefore don’t know what DNF and DNS mean:
DNF = did not finish.
DNS = did not start.
They are terms used in the running community, and, if you drop out of the race or don’t start it, they will appear next to your name in race results instead of the time it took you to finish, or the place you earned.

And even though I knew I was going to at least start, I certainly wasn’t so sure I could finish. If you read the title of the race report, you’ll know I finished. It says it right there. But if you read the race report itself, you’ll know that it took all I had and then some more.

I finished not because I’d have the physical capacity to do so. No, I finished mainly because I had the mental capacity to do so.

I always knew I was going to at least try. Trying is the secret to life, and a good way to learn. I certainly wasn’t going to give up even before I started. But if I was being honest with myself, I didn’t know if I was going to finish. And if you took into account my past injuries and my training, you wouldn’t think I was going to make it, either.

Good thing there’s this little friend we all have called determination. Some of us helped it grow stronger, some of us are just beginning to make acquaintance. But it’s there, with all of us, at all times. And it’s there to help us do stuff we might not think we can do.

Everyone always says you have to believe in yourself. And even though yes, there’s some truth in that, I didn’t believe at all that I could finish the ordeal of Cool Moon. So I’m going to rephrase this often-used phrase:

You have to believe in your determination.

Because it’s your determination that will push you past what you think possible.

Many people might not agree with me but I’ll say that it’s okay if you don’t believe in yourself. It’s okay if you have doubts, if you don’t think you can do something. But notice the phrasing: it’s okay if you don’t think you can do something. I’m not saying it’s fine if you think you can’t do something. No. But there’s this fine point right between “I don’t think I can do this” and “I can’t do this,” and this is the place where your determination steps in and allows you to bloom.

A healthy amount of doubts is, well, healthy. I’m not encouraging you to go climb Mount Everest if you’ve never done mountaineering before, haven’t trained adequately, and simply don’t know what you’re doing. This could easily spell your death. Same as I’m not encouraging you to get up tomorrow morning, having never run a mile, and attempt a 50 miler, even though it probably wouldn’t kill you.

What I do encourage is simply starting. Take a mountaineering course, go run a lap around a track. Then up the stakes a little bit; go on a guided tour up a mountain, go run on a trail. It’s like a videogame. You can’t take on the boss right away, you have to start with its pawns.

Do things you just think you might not be able to do. I’m definitely not going to survive a 200-mile race yet, and I don’t think I can finish a 100-miler. And I believe you’re starting to see the very real difference between these two statements.

Trust yourself, believe in your determination. Being defiant isn’t always a bad thing; resist the urge to stop when the going gets tough and then you’ll do it, even if you think you can’t.

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