Are You Waiting for Permission?

Susan Donnelly gives herself a permission slip to run as many ultra marathons as she wants

Today, I have a story for you about finding the courage to do the big things that really matter to you.

Twenty years ago, my running was nothing more than a tame hobby.

I ran a few road races, mostly local and regional stuff. No adventurous trails, no ultra distances, and none of the world travel I’d craved since I was a kid. All very average.

I spent more hours and dollars than I ever want to count at the mall shopping for stuff you were supposed to want - clothes and things...and more clothes and things. 

Then I found ultras.

And this Swiss mountain race. It was everything I'd ever dreamed of, all rolled together - trail running 45 stunning miles through alpine scenery in one of the three places I most wanted to see in the world. It was perfect!

Except my partner said “no.” 

I spent weeks trying to convince him but the reasons he gave didn’t make sense and there was clearly no changing his mind. I felt resentful, trapped, and sick about it.

Then one day it hit me.

“Why am I waiting for his permission to do what I want to do? I don’t need it - I can go on my own!”

The idea was scary - I’d never travelled overseas by myself, never raced overseas, and never even run this far, much less in unfamiliar mountains - but it was possible.

I stood at a clear fork in the road of my life. I could give in and wait for someone else’s permission to do what I wanted, or have the guts to take responsibility for my life and make it happen myself. 

The stakes were huge. I’d know the rest of my life whether I'm a person who caves or stands up for myself.

So despite all my fears about traveling alone and losing the relationship, I took a deep breath and told him, “I’m going with or without you.”

I braced for everything to fall apart but instead, I felt like I’d found a superpower.

So I proceeded forward. I fumbled through the French entry form, convinced the iffy international money exchange service to accept my entry fee, deciphered the course and rules as best I could, committed to an alarming number of plane, train, and hotel reservations, hoping they all lined up right, and even planned some side trips. Every step gave me a shade more confidence.

When he saw I was serious, my partner changed his mind and went, telling friends later it was the best vacation of his life. 

That might make all the worry seem wasted, but I’ve always been grateful for that experience because It taught me early on that:

I'm the only person responsible for making my dreams happen. No one else.

He wasn’t stopping me from going - I was.

And if I ever want to do anything big in my life, I couldn’t afford to

  • Wait for permission

  • Wait for someone to do it for me.

  • Wait for it to happen by itself.

So here’s my question for you:

“What is it high time to give yourself permission to do?”

Whatever it is, write yourself a permission slip, or say it out loud:

“I, ___________, give myself permission to __________________ .”

And voila...permission granted! 

Be generous with yourself,


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