The One Thing to Do When You Want to Chase a Dream

Susan Donnelly runs dream 100-mile ultramarathon Superior Sawtooth 100

What do I think about in those long, lonely stretches of a 100-mile race?

Sometimes a question like, “Where do our dreams and passions come from?” 

Because when I think about it, mine passion’s pretty weird and everyone’s is a bit unique. One person dreams of playing guitar and another person lives for water polo.

These things seem to pick us, not the other way around, so after miles of pondering, I’ve decided that:

Our dreams and passions are gifts meant specifically for each of us. 

I’m also pretty sure some thought went into this gift.

  • It’s not a pass/fail test.

  • You weren’t given something you wouldn’t be able to do.

  • For some reason that may not be obvious at the moment, it’s the direction you’re meant to go.

Take my first 100 mile race.

The dream of running a 100-miler wouldn’t go away. The more I put it off, the more insistent it got and the more my reasons felt like excuses.

The furthest I’d run was a 50-mile race. I’d inched up carefully from 50k to 40-miler to 50-miler but there was nothing between 50 and 100 miles. I’d have to double my known distance.

I’d never run overnight. I couldn’t for the life of me imagine what it was like to run that far. I had no idea how to pace it and could only guess at how to train for it.

I had no real idea what I was doing or what to expect. This was 1999 - rudimentary internet days. I found two info sources on the internet and poured over the two year’s worth of Ultrarunning magazines I had on hand.

I was so unsure of my ability to finish 100 miles that I decided on Superior Sawtooth 100, over 1000 miles from home, in the hope that if I DNFed, none of my training partners in Tennessee would know. I’d never been there before, didn’t know anyone, and had never seen the trail.

I mailed my check and entry form anyway. I’d figure the rest out as I went along. And I did.

Eighteen years and over a hundred 100-milers later, I can’t imagine standing here still wondering, “Should I try a 100-miler this year?” 

If you’re struggling right now with whether to pursue your own wildly improbable dream, or trying to stay motivated while pursuing it, try this one deceptively powerful strategy:

Take one step in that direction today, no matter how tiny. Repeat tomorrow.

If you dream of running a race, sign up, Google training plans, read someone's race report, order the jacket you’ll need, or reserve a place to stay the night before.

It doesn’t have to be huge action or the “right” one. Anything, no matter how small, that moves you in that direction is always right.

Remember, you were given this thing as a gift, so enjoy it! It may look hard, scary, uncomfortable but it's better than sitting still. You don’t have to know how it will turn out, just move in that direction.

And you, like me, can figure the rest out as you go along.

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