Today’s post is by a guest blogger, my lovely wife, Andrea. You can follow her on Twitter @AndreaApplegate.
- At the 2009 Komen Columbus Race for the Cure. Andrea is on the left.
Miep Gies (meep geez) died recently. You may not be familiar with her, but under great personal threat from the Nazis, she and her husband hid Anne Frank’s family in the secret annex of the shop where she had worked for many years for Anne’s father, Otto. She was also the person who found and preserved Anne’s diary, ensuring the legacy of an extraordinary girl and giving the world a timeless piece of literature.
I am fascinated by Gies’ perspective on what motivated her to do what she did. For the rest of her life, Gies rejected that she was a hero and refused to accept that she possessed any particular qualities that made her remarkable. One explanation she gave for her modesty was that she didn’t want others to think it takes some great strength of character to do what she did. She wanted us to understand that ordinary, everyday people can do extraordinary things. She said, “People should never think that you have to be a very special person to help those who need you.”
In other words, Gies rejected the attitude that some people take on when faced with adversity: they throw their hands in the air and say, Nope, not me. It’s too tough. I don’t want to try. I’m afraid to take a risk. I can’t do it. According to Miep Gies, you can. And you should.
It’s not unlike the attitude you need to run a marathon. You may know that I ran the Boston Marathon in April 2009. Though it was a tough, tough road, and this was only my second marathon, I ran every step of the way, from Hopkinton to Boylston Street. Normally, to get into this, the granddaddy of all marathons, you must meet a qualifying time. But I secured a spot by raising money for a charity, the Young Survivial Coalition. The YSC provides resources, support and advocacy for young women with breast cancer to ensure that no woman under 40 faces breast cancer alone. I was diagnosed when I was 33-years-old, and subsequently endured countless surgeries, six months of chemotherapy, six weeks of radiation, five years of Tamoxifin, and now five years of another drug. So, getting to Boston was a very long road indeed.
When people hear I run marathons, or ran Boston, or when those who know my story hear that I ran on behalf of the YSC, they often say, “Wow, you’re amazing.” It’s not that I don’t appreciate the compliment (I do!), and it’s not that I don’t like to think I am amazing (!), but, really, I’m not. I’m no more amazing than the next guy or girl. I am no more amazing than you.
Running a marathon is an amazing accomplishment, there’s no doubt about it. The truth is, though, that the hardest part isn’t the 26.2 miles on race day, it’s all the weeks and months and miles that go into training for the event. There are, quite literally, no shortcuts to marathon preparation. You don’t need any special skills or qualities to do a marathon. All you need is commitment, dedication and a good pair of running shoes. Anyone can do it, anyone can run a marathon. In fact, anyone does. I ran Boston along side people who are blind (holding onto a short rope tethered to their guides who were also running), and others with prosthetic legs. And those were just the challenges that I could see. Who knows what personal obstacles people overcame to get to the race that day. Amazing.
You, too, can do a marathon. Ordinary, everyday people can do it. And become amazing. But maybe running a marathon is not your thing. I understand. But I know you have a “marathon” in your life: you have some challenge that otherwise overwhelms you, that is daunting, and seems impossible to overcome. But you can do it, you can get it done.
Maybe your marathon is getting healthy & fit. Just like a marathon, it will require dedication, commitment and perserverence. It will take time. Weeks, months of making slow, steady changes to your eating habits, building up endurance so you can be healthy & fit for the rest of your life. Just like a marathon, there are no shortcuts. But when you cross the “finish line”–when you realize that, without even trying, you are maintaining a healthy lifestyle–you will enjoy an amazing sense of accomplishment.
Boston Marathon Finisher
Do you think the blind guy ever thought he’d run the Boston Marathon? Do you think the guy laying in the hospital bed after his leg was amputated ever thought he’d run again, let alone the Boston? I can assure you that, though I’ve always been a runner for fitness, when it was everything I had just to finish a 5K, it never occured to me that I’d ever be fit enough to run 26.2 miles, let alone in Boston.
Don’t sell yourself short. Don’t avoid risk or shrink from challenge because you’re afraid that you don’t have it within you to do it. Because you do. You have it within you to be amazing.