I can’t help but look down at my running watch.
My heart feels like it is about to explode out of my chest. The pain in my lungs is now in my neck. Pounding through my cheekbones.
I am literally moments away from a heart attack.
It all started with a simple phone call from one of my long-time ultra running buddies: “Let’s go to Pisgah and attack some mountains. It will be fun”
I should have known from the drive that this run was about to be a lot different than any of us expected.
We decided to park at the top of the mountain, run to the bottom, and then run back up. Up and up and up and up we drove.
When we got to the top, we checked our gear to make sure we had enough water and food in case it took us longer than we expected.
Finding the nearest trailhead, we started our descent to the bottom. The trail obviously hadn’t been used much because there were rocks and roots and large overgrown spots along the path.
The path itself seemed to descend straight down. At times, the only way to stop was to run into a tree. Or you could try to grab the side of one as you ran by, flinging yourself around the tree in a circular motion to slow yourself down.
If that seems absolutely insane, it is.
The only thing more insane is getting to the bottom of the mountain and realizing that you have to run back up.
Instantly, your brain starts to make excuses.
- Maybe there is a way to drive the car down here and pick us up?
- Are you sure there isn’t an easier way to get back home?
- Why did we decide to do this anyway?
We took a minute to collect ourselves. Checking the map to see exactly where we were in the trail system. And then, the inevitable became reality.
“Ready to go?”
Those three simple words were really an unspoken paragraph about the pain each of us knew we were about to endure. Little did we know what that would actually be.
So back we went. Up. And up. And up. And up.
At first, it didn’t seem like that hard of a climb. But I could tell it was starting to get in my head when I noticed how often I was checking my watch.
The miles accumulate quickly when you’re running downhill. Not so much when you’re running back up.
Slowly but surely, the path became more difficult and our breathing louder. My watch appeared to show that we were close to being at the summit. But the path seemed to go on endlessly.
And despite the water and food we had brought with us, neither of us felt as prepared as we should be.
I felt a slight buzz on my left wrist. It was a notification that we had run another mile.
When I looked down at my running watch I was horrified by what I saw.
My heart was beating at close to 200 beats per minute. And the time for my last mile was a grizzly 29:32. Almost 30 minutes.
Impossible — it seemed. For the amount of effort my body was expending I should have been running a lot faster. A whole lot faster.
But there I was, in the middle of the trail with my body exploding in pain, exhausted by the journey, and completely disillusioned by how much effort and pain it was going to take to get to where I wanted to be.
I wish I could say this was the only time I have been in this precarious position. But it isn’t. And it won’t be.
The hard truth I have come to realize about accomplishing dreams is that it always costs you more then you think it will.
It’s easy to tell other people that you’re willing to do what it takes. It’s a cool phrase to put on a t-shirt. And empowering to believe in. But living your life that way requires next-level focus and a radical commitment that most people consider to be overly obsessive and a bit wacky.
But if you’re not committed to doing what it takes you’ll find yourself giving up too early and only coming close to achieving your goals. You’ll never quite get there.
So what does it take? And why are you going to have to try so hard?
We all agree that you won’t get far in life doing the bare minimum.
To be candid, you won’t get much farther doing a little bit more.
It’s a dangerous trap to think that because you are doing more than those around you that you’re doing what it takes to accomplish your goals.
The truth is that you have to do a “lot a bit” more than everyone else around you to have a chance at accomplishing great things.
That’s nothing new. That’s always how it has been. You just haven’t noticed until now. maybe this goal is a little more important than the ones you’ve had in the past. Maybe the stakes are higher for you accomplishing breakthrough right now.
Maybe you just want it more.
The truth is that doing what it takes is what success requires. You have to lay it all on the line. No matter where you are trying to go or what you’re trying to do. You won’t make it happen by hedging your bets or holding back.
You have to be all in with every fiber of your emotions, every bit of your financial resources, every ounce of will in your body — and a bit more you don’t believe is possible right now.
What does that really mean?
- You have to work tirelessly.
- You have to focus on the details.
- You can’t play it safe.
- You can’t pretend like doing what’s easy is really going to work.
- You have to be vulnerable enough to try and fail and try again. Until you get it right.
Even when you don’t feel like it.
Even when it feels like you don’t have enough strength and courage to get back to the starting line again.
You have to get back up and keep moving.
Because doing what it takes is always what it takes to achieve big dreams. And if that’s what you have, then that’s what you have to give. Anything. And everything. And sometimes both at the same time.
So when you find yourself panting for air and wondering why you set out to conquer the mountain in the first place, know that in this moment by taking the next step you are one of the very few who are actually doing whatever it takes.
From the time that I looked at my watch and realized how incredibly slow I was running up a very steep hill, I ended up only being about 45 minutes away from my car. And the top of the mountain. And a moment when I could sit down and breathe a bit more slowly.
I’ve not been back to that mountain since, but I’ve run other mountains — emotionally and literally.
There is always a crest. Always a finish line. It might feel like forever, but it never is.
It can’t be, especially if you refuse to stop moving forward.