I think I have it pretty easy in this regard, now at least. I’m working on planning my race season this year and toying with the idea of doing my first marathon. Now at least no one thinks that’s crazy for me anymore. Honestly I don’t think any of my friends and family ever did in my case. But as I watch other runners embark on their big challenges I hear other say, “do you think you should be doing that, it’s crazy!” Some runners (and others) hear it so often that they might even start to believe it. I even hear others talking to runners from time to time who are taking on a new challenge and cringe thinking “I would not like to hear that!” Here’s the thing if pretty much anyone sets their mind to a challenge, does the hard work over a long time they can accomplish pretty much any goal! Old, heavy, injured, anxious or busy you can still do big things! Let’s take a look at what those things are, why people say that and why it really isn’t crazy at all!
What is something big?
Really if something is big for you then it’s a big thing! There was a time in every athlete’s career where they couldn’t do the most basic challenge. No runner out there got up one day and ran 5k without stopping. Well not the normal human ones anyway. The first time we did it was a really big deal! For me a 10k seemed out of reach when I was a more occasional runner. I literally decided a half was impossible in my mid 20’s and then did it in my mid 30’s! And I’ve done it pretty much every year since. That just opened my eyes to all the other BIG things I could totally do! Here are some things that might make people say you’re crazy!
- A half marathon or ekkk a full
- Really any triathlon, people don’t get that a super sprint isn’t a humongous deal. After that though it’s totally a really big, big thing!
- A spartan type race (one full of obstacles)
- A cycling century
- A Bikini competition
- Taking up a sport in your old age
- Ultra marathons
- An open water swim
Why others think it’s crazy
Why does it even matter what others say and think about your big challenge? It doesn’t really. Here’s the thing though, hearing it over and over can get in your head.
Every time people say “that’s crazy” on some level what they mean is that they don’t think that they could EVER do it. Often it’s no deeper than that. Usually for this sort of reason the very next sentence is “good for you!” or “I could never do that!” And you can tell they mean it. When you hear this sort of “that’s crazy” realize that it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. You can just brush this comment to the side and move on with your life. See there’s no reason to internalize it at all. These are just well meaning people saying the wrong thing and we all know that happens from time to time. Deal with these sorts of people by trying to explain just how easy it could be for them until they lose interest. You never know you might create a training partner.
The next category is people that are really focused on “but why?” Their intentions are often not totally pure but again it’s not about you. They might ask if you think you’ll win or focus on why you would even try if you can’t win. They might ask lots of questions and leave lots of comments that make you fell like your accomplishment is lessened. These folks are dialed in to taking you down a peg because their lifestyle may suck a little bit and they are insecure about it. So they’re going to play it off like anything less than a world championship performance just isn’t worth their time. These people can make you feel really crappy but once again it’s about them and not you. Deal with this person by taking some extra care with them in the future. They might not be in a great space right now and hurt people hurt others without even being aware of it sometimes.
The last category are the Judgmental Johnathans. These folks kinda suck. They will mention stuff casually in conversation that after the fact leaves your head spinning. Sometimes what they say isn’t a whole lot different than the last two sections but it’s how they say it! Expect comments like:
- People literally die doing marathons don’t you feel like this could happen to YOU!
- Are you sure that’s a good idea at your age/weight/life situation?
- Won’t you miss a lot of time with your kids?
- Wouldn’t that time be better spent working for YOU?
- It’s such a luxury that you could EVEN attempt that!
- I guess everyone has different priorities, right?
- Its so nice for you that you have time to do that!
- Please tell me that YOU especially checked with a doctor right?
These folks make you feel crappy to your face but that’s nothing compared to their inner monologue of judgment and what they say behind your back. They probably don’t know that living their life in that headspace is a crappy way to be but they just can’t help it at this point. You’ll notice that almost everything they say about themselves is pretty much bragging. Don’t buy it! People like this often come off kind in the moment but with closer inspection a lot of what they do is trying to take you down a peg. They seem to have something to say about everything. Ask yourself would you consider them an expert in all those fields? The answer is probably not. Deal with these folks by backing away slowly, faking a phone call after only discussing the weather when it comes to your fitness goals and pretty much everything else. Oh and after that crush your goals and no one will have anything to say after that!
What you might say instead
Maybe you come across those people who do big challenges on the regular and you didn’t realize that saying “that’s crazy” isn’t the best thing to say. Don’t worry if you’ve done it, it’s not really that big a deal. Here’s a list of options but if nothing else just say “that’s amazing” instead!
- That’s so cool and if there is something I could do to make it easier for you I will
- Wow, good for you, you should post more on social media about it so I can follow your journey
- Tell me everything about your training so far (be prepared to cancel your afternoon). Make a new best friend by asking insightful questions.
- That’s so neat, I read an interesting article about someone who did that recently. I’ll send it to you
Why it’s not crazy
If you stay determined and do the hard work for the time required pretty much anyone can do anything. If you’ve never exercised and have some health issues because of your lifestyle choices you might not be able to do an ultra this year. It might even be harder for your than some other people but over the next few years almost anyone can get there. The health benefits are obvious and probably the motivating factor but doing something really, really big actually has at least as many benefits in the rest of your life. You learn so much about yourself taking on a big challenge like this. Don’t believe me give it a shot!
Taking on a big challenge takes a lot of time, like a lot! That forces you to do more planning, organizing and overall become more efficient. You’ll be doing things like getting up super early, meal prepping, scheduling house work and running on your lunch break. Some of those habits will stick too and overall training will lead you getting more done in a day than you ever thought possible. Being busy like that also leads you to examine your priorities overall which is a really great thing. If someone or something is sucking up a lot of your time, energy or sleeping hours all of a sudden you see it. If your friendships really are really just late night drinking sessions that’s not going to last in combination with early Sunday long runs, neither is the crappy food. Looking at what your life is with an eye to editing it is a really great thing.
So many people start exercising to lose weight and get healthy and it does help but why do they keep it up forever then? I think the answer is that it does more for your mental health than your physical health. Although both are pretty great! Even if you have literally no mental health issues tackling a big fitness challenge will be a game changer for your mind. Having that alone time to think is amazing plus the mood boost and energy really helps you actually solve your problems. Plus earring that dopamine reward on race day it like no drug around. You might start for the physical health but you’ll stay for your mental health.
Lots of the comments you’ll hear is about some sort of danger to your health. Here’s the thing they don’t get though, your body will tell you to stop if it’s too much. Before you run yourself into a heart attack most of us will just throw up and get dizzy. Been there! Before you wear out a joint it will hurt like hell and before you exhaust yourself completely you’ll start falling asleep in weird places. If you have health problems for sure check with your doctor but your body will stop you before your mind does or before you do any sort of permanent damage. Just be prepared to start slow, take all the time you need to get there and come back from the odd set back or two.
No matter who you are if you set your mind to something big like running a marathon you can totally do it. Just ask Brittany (of Brittany runs a marathon, she’s a real person). While it might take time to get there you will get there eventually. What big challenge are you thinking of taking on and why that one? If you have taken on a big challenge in the past what silly comment from someone else got in your head? What would you like to hear instead of “that’s crazy!”