What I Learned from Dangerous Dave


In high school, I had a classmate on the cross-country and track teams named Dave.

Dangerous Dave (insert eye roll).

He was a ‘brain.’ And imperious to boot.

He wanted to be the fastest runner on our teams - you could tell - but always finished somewhere mid-pack, like me.

Where he should be, of course. You can’t be a brain AND a track star. Because…justice.

He was mid pack our sophomore year and again as a junior.

Then August of our senior year rolled around, with the start of cross-country season.

That meant “try-outs” for the team but we knew who was who.

The fast ones were fast. The rest of us, well, battled it out to be on the team and as far from last as possible.

When the boys’ tryout race began, the field strung out quickly, and to our surprise, Dave was hanging with the fast guys. 

We snickered. He was going to choke, big time! What an ego. What was he trying to prove?

This was going to be bad.

Except it wasn’t.

Dave was in the lead…crazy! But even crazier? He finished that way!

Wait a minute! Who did he think he was? Brains were brains and runners were runners. You couldn’t be both. That’s how it worked.

Unbelievably, though, that wasn’t a one-off. Dangerous Dave led the boys’ cross-country and track teams all year long. 

He now had solid justification for attitude (so annoying!) but you couldn’t deny his results. He’d obviously transformed himself…but how? 

We never discovered his secret but I’m certain it started here: he didn’t let his past define his future.

You don’t make big transformations or do big things by asking your past how big you’re allowed to go. 

You look ahead to the future, decide who you want to be, and start becoming that.

Basing your future on your past is powerless. Dave could have thought, “I’ve run slow in the past, so I AM slow.” It would have gotten him the same old results.

Basing it on who you want to be is powerful. Despite two years of unremarkable results (plenty of evidence), Dave had to have simply decided who he wanted to be - the fastest guy on the team - then set about becoming that person.

If this seems like a stretch, let me remind you that this is what we’re trying as ultra runners to do anyway. Stretch ourselves beyond our limits. Become the future runner we want to be.

So why not start being the person and the runner you want to be?

Strong. Tough. Confident. Capable. Smart. And yes, fast.

Decide it and become it. 

Susan Donnelly’s signature

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