What Would You Do If You Could?

Introducing the Itty Bitty Shitty Committee (IBSC)

Sometime during my 50th trip around our star, I had a thought:

“I should run a marathon before I turn 60.”

And then those voices in my head kicked in with a nice chorus of “Yes, but…”

  • Dude, you can’t even run a mile without wheezing!
  • Remember in high school – when you played soccer and lacrosse and you chose the position that required the least amount of running: goaltender?
  • Shin splints. Just sayin’.
  • That old ski injury in your left knee that aches every time it rains?
  • You’re over the hill. Take up bocci ball instead…

So I went back to the couch. And took a nap. And the gremlins, my IBSC, chalked up another victory.

Resistance to Change

Systems (individual, tribal, organizational, societal, trophic, etc) all have very powerful immune systems that seek homeostasis or equilibrium. As a result, they have an inherent tendency to resist change which in turn helps to ensure the survival of the system. My lazy ass was no different. The couch was very comfortable, thank you very much.

F.E.A.R. (False Evidence Appearing Real)

Then I threw some disruption into my system.  One big piece was I changed jobs and dropped a long daily commute. All of a sudden, I had three extra hours in my day. So I downloaded one of those couch-to-5k apps to my iPhone, and set out to test the belief at the core of my fears:

  • I was too old and too fat to be able to run for 10 mins without needing an EMT, let alone a freakin’ marathon.

Here’s my first week of running, March 2018:

Yep. Gremlins had a lot of fun with that. 30 mins to cover 1.75 miles, and only 8 of those minutes at a running pace.

Yet I stuck with it…

8 weeks later:

I ran a full 5k in 35 minutes. Not a record-breaking time by any stretch. But I made it the distance. Take that, gremlins!

Then I did some humble bragging to a pal, let’s call him Frank, in the new office.

Little did I know – Frank’s one of those crazy runner types.

Shortly after my brag, Frank managed to get me out on the trail 3 times in one week, running at a “democratic pace” – meaning he could speak in entire paragraphs without effort and I was struggling to cough out one-word answers.

At the end of that week, Frank casually dropped, “You know, you did three 5k’s this week. Do that for a couple of months and you’ll be able to run a half marathon.”

“Um, Frank, check my math… but that’s 21k?!”

Systems (individual, tribal, organizational, societal, trophic, etc) all have very powerful immune systems that seek homeostasis or equilibrium. Share on X

A Half Marathon

Frank encouraged me to sign up for the November 2018 Bucks County Half Marathon. It cost me about $90 to register. Frank’s logic was if I decided to bail out it was no big deal.

We both ran the Bucks Half that fall. Frank finished at least an hour ahead of me, yet there he was at the finish line, cheering me on as I completed my race, “Dude, that was awesome. One of those a month for the next three months, and you’ll be running a full marathon… here, have a beer!”

A Full Marathon

I think you can guess where this was headed. I signed up for the NJ Marathon for the following spring, again with the idea: I didn’t really have to go through with it.

So I put in the miles week after week. I ran through the winter following a well-known novice training routine.

Then the day came. Sunday, April 28, 2019. It was cold in North Jersey. It was drizzling. I won’t sugar coat it: I was miserable from about mile 12 onwards, right after I tripped over a manhole cover and hit the ground hard. What had I gotten myself into?

There was quite the chorus in my head.

  • “You can stop anytime….”
  • “Yeah, bail now.”
  • “I told you that you were too old for this shit.”

My headphone batteries died a few minutes later. My sports watch was on the fritz. My legs ached. My elbow was bleeding. I was running at barely a walking pace. One foot in front of the other for the last several miles. Somehow I made it to the finish line, 6 hours, 10 minutes and 24 seconds after I had started. And the worse part: I took so long to finish, by the time I got to the end, the free beer tent had already packed it up and gone home.

So I told myself I’d never ever do that again.

I heard the gremlins get out the champagne, or whatever it is they celebrate with - fermented monkey piss. They got their party hats on. Share on X


Not long after that first full marathon, I read a blog article by Lia Ditton.

She’s about to embark on a really big challenge: rowing solo and unsupported across the Pacific Ocean.

Let me break that down for you:

  • 5,500 miles
  • Alone
  • Unsupported
  • Rowing
  • No motor. No sails. Rowing the boat herself.

Nineteen attempts have been made to attempt this. Two were successful. Both men, both had to be towed to land their last 20 and 50 miles respectively. One person was lost at sea.

This won’t be Lia’s first rodeo on the waves. In her 39 years on our planet, she has racked up over 150,000 miles at sea and has taken part in some of the most grueling open water races there are – such as the OSTAR transatlantic race (that’s a single-handed yacht race), the Le Route du Rhum (another transatlantic single-handed yacht race) and the Woodvale challenge (a 2,930 mile Atlantic rowing race).

In her article, Lia wrote about her own itty bitty shitty committee chattering away in her head.

“I am not afraid of sharks or waves the size of buildings… I am afraid of pain… I am afraid of the destruction of my own body.”

Even Lia Ditton has an IBSC!

So I signed up for the Philly Rock n Roll Marathon this November, and to show the gremlins who’s da boss, I gave myself another BHAG: run 1,000 miles this calendar year.

Greeting the Gremlins

To help me stay my course, I am using a new way to chat with my IBSC. (I learned this at this year’s Agile Coach Camp.)

It goes like this:

“Hi Gremlin(s)

I see you. I hear you. I feel you. I love you unconditionally and I accept you fully.

Now, how can I support you?”

There’s an incredible power behind this approach.

When the voices of my gremlins emerge, I see them for what they are. The voices of fear, trying to caution me, “Play not to lose.” Share on X

Navigating the Currents

On my training runs, I listen mostly to audiobooks. I’ve just finished Robert J. Anderson’s Mastering Leadership. In it, he writes:

“As we descend into our doubts and fears, we see that they are not what we thought they were. We see that the old self is too small for the purpose and vision that want to come through. We also discover that there is a much larger self that is fully capable of creating the future to which we aspire… The pursuit of purpose brings us face-to-face with the ways we are playing-not-to-lose. [This] means facing our fears head-on, becoming a student of our fears by descending into them.”

It is Not the Enemy Out There That You Most Need to Fear

Part of the reason I continue to run is a practice of mindfulness, working to overcome my perceived limits by leaning into them. Harvesting the shadows. Another reason is that I can eat all the carbs I want. Oh, and beer… it tastes so much better after a multi-hour training run.

I’m a wee bit behind my 1,000 goals, having taken 6 weeks off over the summer. I’m working every week to catch up, one mile at a time.

How about you, “What would you do if you could?”

PS: Frank just finished his first Ironman 70.3 (a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride, and a 13.1-mile run).  And no, Frank. No!!!! I can’t swim 100 yards, yet.

As we descend into our doubts and fears, we see that they are not what we thought they were. We see that the old self is too small for the purpose and vision that want to come through. Share on X



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