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Inspiration and Bloodied heels.

Updated: Jun 24

Betsy opened the back patio door and immediately flopped onto the floor. She was visibly distressed. She asked me to help her remove her shoes. As I worked to untie the laces, I noticed that these were not her roughed up Hokas but a brand new running shoe. A glance at her raw and bloodied heel revealed the source of her distress. She had run 3 hours in a shoe that was not broken in and completely new to her, something that could be called a rookie mistake. Betsy told me she had every intention to change her shoes after about 1 hour but she didn't, even when it started to hurt she kept on running.

Betsy is not someone with perpetual grit. Her tenacity runs deep, but not to the extent that she would purposefully subject herself to 3 hours of running with raw heels. It was then that she relayed to me what happened earlier in her day which made her motivation to run through such discomfort a little more comprehensible.

Betsy volunteers at a hospice. In doing so she has become close with a patient (she calls "my friend") and she visits frequently. On that particular day her friend was in a bad way. During what was a typical conversation there was a sudden onset of extreme leg pain, enough to make her friend cry out in pain. Betsy quickly sought help from the nurse and the pain management team, she was acknowledged. She stood back at her friends side and held her hand wishing that relief of her suffering would soon come. Ultimately relief did come, in the form of a medication from the pain management team, but the event had left an impression.

Her persistence in her run that day may have been motivated by anger at not being able to immediately relieve her friends pain, or maybe empathy and wanting to suffer as she had seen her friend suffer. Negative motivations for sure, but motivating nonetheless. Negative motivation tends to be short lived. Your body ultimately gets fatigued and the exhaustion overwhelms your goal of self reproach. This statement may not be based on fact, but more on my thoughts and experience with negative motivation. That being said, I have spent a decent amount of time in thinking about motivation, mostly because I am interested in how people are able to accomplish extraordinary feats.

I have posed the motivation, or inspiration, question to a handful of elite athletes and Betsy has also posted it on the USA crossers Facebook page (hopefully it is clear what that page is about). Some people have mantras that they will repeat, others have tricks they play. Others use the inspiration from a higher power or a greater cause to help them continue towards their goals. The responses we received were inspiring, insightful and entertaining so I have included them below. Those names highlighted in blue have links to more information about the athlete. Our thanks to those who contributed!!

Benjamin Timoner - self proclaimed laziest person to walk across America twice.

Said Aloud every single day before my first steps.

"Are you quitting today?

No. Not today. Maybe tomorrow but not today."

Don Munchow - 2021 run across America, completed 5x Ironman challenge.

"as the days wore on and the primary challenge moved from physical to psychological to spiritual and sort of existential, I found ways to stay anchored on the present and not let the sheer size of the endeavor overcome me"

Jim McCord - Ran across America in 2002.

"There's power on the white line." When it was 100+ and humid in Kansas, it was awesome to receive power and energy when running on the white line. It's the power of suggestion. You believe it strongly enough, and repeat it over and over, and son of a bitch, you really feel power coming from that white line. Worked for me over and over and over, when I needed energy.

Brian R. Stark - AKA the states runner, has run across 34 states.

"It doesn’t always get worse" and "Let’s see what’s just up ahead"

Tracy Herbert - solo bicycle ride across america

Keep going no matter what happens and don’t lose hope! It helped even in the record heat and high winds

Milton Miller - ran across America twice, author of 100 days of madness

I did my trancons during winter. Every time I was tired, demotivated, or feeling cold, I imagined Ernest Shackleton laughing at me and calling me a pussy!

Jay Birmingham - Record holder for solo, unsupported USA Transcon run

"No options"

Julie Mueller - full and half distance Ironman triathlon world championship competitor

"just F&cking go"

Stacie Eichinger - walked across the US in 2013

For me, I did my Walk for kids with cancer... my mantra during moments of doubt was "the children I'm walking for don't give up, neither can I"

Ryan Geiger - professional cyclist, hybrid and endurance athlete coach

"Your body is stronger than your mind admits"

Matt Fitzgerald - endurance sports and nutrition writer, coach and runner

"If it's not hard, it's not hard enough"

Wills Walking West - walked across the US in 2019

A beneficial mantra was "Live in the moment". It's a big country. And looking at a local map compared to the vast distance of the whole country, to me, seemed self defeating.

"Every day is a new day"....this helped A LOT when I was well into the continent. I got to Oklahoma and Texas and it just seemed very tiresome some days. So I got on this thing, instead of waking up and focusing on the day before, I'd just take my time taking down my tent, etc., sit and meditate the new day. A new day. And that day is the ONLY day that matters. That was important.

Bill Schultz - Transcon run completion in 1990 (click his name for a slideshow)

I crossed in 1990. I completed this little prayer and went over it at the start and end of every day. Still use it today - changing the pronouns to fit different occasions and people.

For Today, Tomorrow, and the Day After…

May the sun forever shine upon my face,

May the wind forever blow upon my back,

May my goals forever be in sight,

May my beliefs forever give me strength,

and May my Spirit forever run free.

Philip Deutschle - walked across the US

"One day at a time"

"A low point is not an end point"

Greshann Covington - Ultrarunner

Hebrews 12:1

John Martin - Ran across the US in 2019

"Ernie did it! My excuses are invalid!"

(Ernie Andrus ran across the U. S. from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic. He turned 90, August of 2013. He started by touching the Pacific ocean at Mission Beach, San Diego, CA on October 7, 2013 and reached the Atlantic ocean at the old Coast Guard Station, Saint Simons Island on August 20, 2016 (one day after his 93rd birthday).

Timmy Zhou - Ran across the US in 2023

It's far easier to keep going than it is to quit

Michelle Everett

"Tacos in the bank baby"

Betsy's training continues to go well, she logged 52 miles this week with the longest run being a 4 hour run (3 hour run occurred the week prior).

Until next week...

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Wow,,, you caught me off guard with this post. This is a very emotional, inspirational and insightful posting. The different quotes from the various athletes were fun to read and reminded me of the live in the moment, live in the day mantras which I find awesome! Love you guys. Btw,,, this is a 5 star plus!

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