Inspiration is always all around us.
Whenever I walk into my library, I am surrounded by the inspiring biographies and autobiographies of politicians, scientists, philosophers, artists and athletes. However, no matter how well written a story, most of the time, you really don’t know the man/woman personally. The book is generally written after he/she have achieved their distinctions and although they may tell you about their struggles, most of the time, we did not personally know them while they went through those struggles. We only see the finished product in the book.
So, what really inspires me is when I meet an ordinary person, much like myself, and then see them break all boundaries and achieve spectacular success.
I am truly inspired when I meet such a person in the early stages of their career because I get to watch them grow into that which I want to become. It tells me that, I too, can do what he/she has done. It is sometimes more inspiring to watch a work-in-progress.
I first met Heather Howells on the internet. Both of us were training for the 2009 Comrades Ultra Marathon. Both of us were scared and needed to share our concerns and anxieties about the gruelling 89 km Comrades. Heather and I have similar running histories. We both started running pretty late in life, Heather at the age of 40. She ran her first 21k in 2006 her first 42.2k in 2007 and by 2009 she was ready for the 89k Comrades in South Africa. We used to exchange e-mails all the time and share our running schedules.
Heather works as a Labour and Delivery Nurse in Honolulu. She works 12 hour shifts and so scheduling Comrades training was a challenge for her. She always keeps saying that she lives in Paradise and the pictures on her blog are a testimony to that.
I personally met Heather for the first time, the day before Comrades 2009, which she went on to finish.
Within a year of Comrades, she registered for the 250 km/156 mile Kalahari Augarbies Extreme Marathon (KAEM). The KAEM is a self-sufficiency run held over 6 legs in 7 days with set distances for each day ranging from 28km to 75km. She had to carry all her supplies, clothes and safety/survival equipment for the duration of the event in a bagpack on her back for the duration of the event. There is no outside assistance. The temperatures in the Kalahari desert vary from 40 degrees Celsius during the day to single figures in the evenings. Tents to sleep in and a limited amount of water to drink are provided for.
In a matter of 4 years Heather went from a 21k to the finish line of a 250km extreme marathon in the Kalahari!
I think that if we are to only train for a 21k, then the 21k seems hard. The minute we register for a 42k, then the 21k becomes just a training run. When I registered for my first Comrades, the 42k became a training run but Heather went on to push the limits and she made the Comrades distance into a training run.
I often find that when I plan to run a 10k, I am tired at the end of 10k and find that I cannot run a step further even to save my life. However on the day that I plan to run a 50k, I somehow manage the 50k.
I think we make our own barriers in our own minds. For many years it was widely believed impossible for a human to run a mile in under 4 minutes. Yet in 1954 Sir Roger Banister ran the mile in 3:59. He had broken through the “4 minute mile” psychological barrier and then within 56 days John Landy ran it in 3:57 and then within 3 years 16 other runners cracked the 4 minute mile.
Sometimes, it is just a change in our thinking that makes all the difference. Banister wrote in 1956, “Though physiology may indicate respiratory and cardiovascular limits to muscular effort, psychological and other factors..set the razor’s edge of defeat and victory..”
There is a story I love about Emperor Akbar: He drew a line on a wall and asked his courtiers to make it smaller without touching it. The courtiers were at a loss. How could they make the line smaller without touching or cutting it? Finally Birbal, the Grand Vizier, stood up and drew a longer line next to it and the first line became automatically smaller. Akbar’s line was neither touched nor erased.
This perhaps, is then the Art of Life. I need to awaken a higher state in my life alongside the lower one.
My friend Heather is simply fearless. As Shakespeare put it, “Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety.” Heather simply continues to draw new longer lines on her canvas and she keeps inspiring me to do the same on mine. Aloha Heather and Keep running my friend.
Follow Heather on: http://braidsandlaceshawaii.blogspot.com