START

It took me a long time to start a business.  I have long fancied myself as an entrepreneur even when I really was not.  I'm full of ideas.  I always think I've got the next best thing that will give me the chance to be my own boss and launch a great new endeavor towards true freedom from the rat race.  That was the idea anyway.  

I've had a lot of ideas.  My first entrepreneurial idea was to start to enter into the insurance industry shortly after college as an independent home inventory.....guy.  I researched it, and it seems straight forward enough.  I even took a little bit of time to start building a custom database to record and store client data.  Nevermind the fact that I knew nothing about the field and knew nothing about running a business.  I explored other business ideas such as a woodworking business where I would make bowls.  They would be great bowls.  You gotta see these bowls (NOTE: previous two sentences best read in Trump voice).  When I got into running in my late twenties I thought I'd start a run coaching business despite having ZERO credentials to do so in a market that couldn't support that kind of venture.  Details, right?  I lived for years on ideas.  I've never relished the thought of going into an office from 8am to 5pm, answering emails, attending meetings, and uttering phrases like "I'll circle back around with you on that."  WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?!?!  That makes no sense!  That life just couldn't be for me, but I seemed to just exist in this pergatory of ideas.

As I continued running and racing I eventually tired of trying to race the clock and every local 5k and decided to try a trail race.  Not just any trail race, of course.  I signed up for my first 50k in November of 2014 - a 31 mile trek through the mountain trails of northern Georgia.  I will dig into what that experience was like in another post.  That is not the point here.  The point is that I finished that race in ugly fashion (limping to the finish in tears and cursing the day I ever purchased a pair of running shoes), but I learned one important thing:  all I had to do was start.

Jumping straight from doing nothing but road 5k races to a trail 50k is typically not advised.  At least not in the world of running magazines that recommend you supplement your favorite recreational activity with a long list of strict rules.  Never increase your mileage by more than 10% per week.  Always do dynamic warmups.  Never stretch before a run.  Always stretch before a run.  Don't do two days of hard workouts in a row.  Fine.  I appreciate the advice, but in the end we all need to make our own decisions based on our own lives; and I just simply wanted to do a 50k.  So I signed up.  I trained.  I made my travel plans.  I started.

That's all I had to do.  Start.  I knew it would be hard.  I knew it would take a long time to finish, and I acknowledged that as an ultra rookie I really had no idea what was in front of me.  I also knew that the only way to find out was to toe that damn starting line.  I did not know if I had what it took to run a fast 50k.  Hell I didn't even know if I had what it took to FINISH.  I did know, however, that the only way to find out was to start.  Maybe I would do really well.  Maybe I would do terribly yet make it to the finish regardless.  Maybe I would drop out after 5 miles.  I didn't know when I signed up, and I didn't know when I got to Georgia.  I would know by the end of the day.  All I had to do was start, and then I would at least know for sure.

For my first time out that 50k was TOUGH.  Again, I won't get into the miserable details.  I will just say that my strategy went from racing, to finishing, to surviving.  Can you say "epic bonk"?

So clueless during my first ultra that I couldn't even match my sleeves to the rest of my shirt.

So clueless during my first ultra that I couldn't even match my sleeves to the rest of my shirt.

In undertaking any complex endeavor we will inevitably confront forces that tell us to quit.  We will encounter obstacles that make us want to quit.  We know that.  It is a certainty.  After all, those forces of resistance are what make those endeavors what they are.  We know they exist, and our inevitable encounter with them is what drives us to take on the task in the first place.  "The hard is what makes it great," if I may quote the immortal (albeit fictional) Jimmy Dugan.  "If it wasn't hard everyone would do it."  Come now, don't tell me that A League of Their Own isn't on your guilty pleasure movie list.

For me, it was that resistance that compelled me to take on my first ultramarathon in Georgia that November.  I knew it was going to be hard.  I knew the obstacles were in the way.  What I didn't know was whether or not I was up to the task.  I didn't know where my limits were, and I wanted to find out.  I wanted that face those forces telling me "NO" and find in them an opportunity to push past what might have been my limits to find something in me that I didn't know was there.  I did that.  I started the race.  I encountered the obstacles.  I made my way through them.  I finished the race.  Not triumphantly.  Pathetically actually.  But I finished.  I finished because I had the courage to start.

It's no coincidence that before I ran my second ultra I was working on my next entrepreneurial endeavor:  Next Opportunity Events.  Two things led me to the desire to put on races.  First, participating and volunteering at races large and small over several years I found myself constantly judging the race organizers' performances more than my fellow runners.  I noted what went well, where the problems were, and where I thought I would do things differently.  I knew I could do that and do it better than anyone has yet.  Second, I decided that I wanted to give people the opportunity to experience what I experienced in the Georgia mountains in November of 2014.  I wanted to present people with unique opportunities to stare resistance in the face and push past it.  To go to the edge of their limits and push past it.  To find new limits and new opportunities.  Taking what I had learned on the Georgia trails I applied the "Just Start" approach to a few race ideas I had in my brain and just started.  I started talking to people.  I started making phone calls and sending emails.  I started a business.  I started some races.

2015 Outdoor Expo in Morehead, KY.

2015 Outdoor Expo in Morehead, KY.

The playwright George Bernard Shaw is quoted, "You see things; and you say 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say 'Why not?'".  I heard people saying, "Wouldn't it be cool if there were more trail races."  "Someone should put on an ultra in Red River Gorge."  These became they why to which I said "Why the hell not?  And why not me?"  

I started.  I knew little about running a business.  I had no experience actually directing races.  I knew it would be hard, and I knew I would encounter resistance.  I knew I would be told "No" more than I would be told "Yes", but I resolved to take every "No" as my next opportunity.  The resistance might be too much.  The obstacles might be insurmountable.  I might fail.  I might succeed.  Nothing was certain, though.  I didn't know for sure.  The only I would know would be to get started and to not stop moving forward until a greater opposing force imposed its will and put a stop to everything for me.  

Just start.  No matter what you want to do.  No matter what is in your way.  Starting is more important than finishing because the latter cannot happen without the former.  Starting is more important than failing because the latter here might not happen at all.  You won't know until you start.  

See you next week.

-Mike