Two "What You Can Do" Stories

With tough trail or busy life, ultrarunning mindset coach Susan Donnelly says think about what you CAN do, not what you can't

When someone tells me they want to run an marathon or ultramarathon but don’t have the time to train for it, I think of people like my neighbor Jill and friend Jameelah.

Jill has three young kids and needs to be home with them in the afternoons and on weekends. But she loves to run and still manages to put in a decent weekly mileage.


We live on a circle and she runs back and forth on the long straightaway of the circle where she can either be in earshot or keep an eye on the kids while they’re playing outside. When they’re inside, she's on the treadmill. 

Boring? Nope. She's smiling on those back-and-forths.

Then there's Jameelah with five kids and two jobs. She chooses tough races like 100-milers with low finish rates because she likes doing what other believe she can't. She manages to put in her miles too.


She trains mostly at night on the treadmill at her 24-hour gym after her kids are asleep, around midnight to 3:00am. She's never been big on sleep, is a big nap-taker, and stays busy between it all.

With her work schedule, she often gets to races late and yet again - does the distance she can. Sometimes it’s a DNF, sometimes a finish, but she does it.

In case you think she can’t possibly manage decent training, get this. At Double Top 100 last weekend, she started the 72-hour version of the race and did one tough 20-mile loop of it before she decided she wouldn’t have time to fit in the seven loops required to have a 72-hour finish. So she dropped to the 100-miler, opting to start it from scratch. 

That’s right - she ignored the first 20 miles she’d already completed. She finished the 100-miler in the rainstorm I missed, and though I was the first place woman, she actually ran six loops to my five.

So, what’s the point of these two stories? 

If there’s something you want, focus on what you can do about it, not what you can’t. 

Most of us can’t train perfectly to the perfect schedule. We live in flat places where we can’t train right for mountain races. Our jobs take time. We work weekends. The kids have soccer tournaments. We have lives.

There are a million reasons you might not have time to get the weekday or long run miles you planned. 

The obstacles can be frustrating but if they’re all you see, they’re literally all you see. The mind can only hold one thought at a time, so it’s either chewing on the reason you can’t do your long run, or brainstorming ways you can fit a similar run in your schedule. 

Can’t do or can. Your brain's either seeing the rocks in your trail or the way through them.

If Jill or Jameelah dwelled on what they couldn’t do, there’d be no stories to tell.

“What CAN I do?” thinking is a habit worth building. 

It helps you balance your priorities - like Jill and Jameelah - and prepares you to handle the things that go wrong in an ultramarathon, not to mention the other difficulties of everyday life.

I hope these two stories get you thinking. 

These women found a way to make running fit in their present circumstances, and you can too.

Please share this with anyone else that could use the inspiration!

Until next week,

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