This morning I ran six miles. It took about an hour. It wasn’t that hard. A pair of custom Nike running shoes had arrived yesterday, and they felt splendid on my feet, like little cushions. I wear out a pair of shoes about every two months through walking and running. Twenty five years ago, I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without using the bannister to pull myself up and then rest for several minutes before continuing. I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and I thought, perhaps a wee bit of a nervous breakdown, but that’s another story.
I couldn’t get out of bed for three months other than to go to the bathroom and take an occasional shower. I had a good position as a CFO of a manufacturing company in a consulting capacity. I was installed by their Factor, (buys accounts receivables from companies to provide working capital), because they were a big risk. My main job, as usual, was to arrange other financing to get the bank out whole. The company’s returns and chargebacks were so ridiculously high that they filled up an entire office.
When I got sick, this company kept me on, thankfully, because I was a single mother with two toddlers. I remember lying in bed day after day on the phone with the head of the Factor, sobbing because I was scared and depressed. We became good friends and laugh about it now. But he was grateful because even while bedridden, I was able to secure a sizable loan from an asset-based lender who I knew, saving the Factor from the loss. I won’t go into detail about that loan, but I do give myself credit for some creative (totally on the up and up of course) structuring. On the personal front, my then boyfriend moved in and helped me take care of my kids and the house, doing all the shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and dropping off and picking up the kids from school and daycare for those three months.
Even though I was able to get out of bed several months later, I was still incredibly weak and sick. It was like having a bad flu that lasted for two years. At that point, there was nothing I wanted more than to be able to walk again without feeling achy and exhausted. Nothing. When you don’t have your good health, and you don’t know how long it will be until you do, everything becomes clouded by darkness and hopelessness. It was like walking down a narrow tunnel that went on endlessly and the only thing ahead was more darkness. But I kept pushing. I had a family to support.
Within two years, I became a partner in a clothing manufacturing company and had a spacious office with a shower. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired, so I bought a used treadmill and put it in my office. Every morning I started walking on the treadmill. At first, I could only walk for twenty minutes at 3 mph. Eventually, both the speed and endurance of my walks increased. Then I started jogging. Slowly. I joined a gym. I started running.
The elation felt in being able to run, cannot be adequately described. When you don’t know if you will ever be able to walk again, and then one day you are running, there is a joyous freedom that is the best feeling in the world. It is a simple freedom that anyone can do anywhere. I often ask myself, why don’t more people run?
Just to be clear, my main sport growing up was showing horses. I was also on the equestrian team in college. It takes a lot of core and leg strength, but it’s not like being on the track and field team. I wasn’t a runner. I didn’t even like running.
Eddie Rickenbacker, the famed World War I flying ace who was shot down in the Pacific, survived for 24 days drifting in a life raft in the ocean before being rescued. After they found him, a reporter asked what he learned from his ordeal. He responded that if he had enough food to eat and water to drink, he would never complain about anything ever again.
How many of us take simple things for granted? Things like eating and drinking and walking?
Here’s the most important thing that I learned through my ordeal that I have applied to other situations in my life over and over and over again:
When I pushed through my pain, I actually felt better.
Yes, it’s true. When you are in pain or sick or blocked by obstacles such as rejection, failure, or fear, it feels better to push through. I learned that. When you’re running and you are tired and your lungs hurt and you think you can’t go one more step, keep going. You can do it. I tell myself, I can do anything for an hour.
And I learned that it’s not good to wallow, to feel sorry for yourself, to give up or give in. Just keep going. If you need a sale, call one person. Then, the next day, call two, and then ten, and then a hundred. If you want to build your endurance, walk for twenty minutes, then thirty, then an hour. Keep pushing. It gets easier. You will feel better. And for Pete’s sake, feel grateful for what you do have. Appreciate that you can walk up a flight of stairs. Check with your doctor first, of course, and then take it further. Start running up the stairs. If you can run, you should run. Because maybe someday you won’t be able to run anymore. So run while you can. Start that company. Write that book. No excuses. You are capable of so very much more than you think.