High dive (or a week before the big race)


while i was plugging along down the road, today,
i was thinking about the time period you have entered.

This time immediately before the big race.
these are the days of nerves.

the task you are about to undertake
is looming over you now,
and the confidence with which you keyed in your entry,
lo these months ago is gone.

replacing it are the cold fingers of fear
slowly constricting your heart
and melting away your courage.

i am not going to sit here and type in that it will not hurt.
it is going to hurt.
a lot.
i am not going to tell you that you will not feel despair.
you will feel despair.
you will find depths of hopelessness
that you never knew existed.

what i will tell you is
that you can do it.
you have inside you everything it takes
to accomplish a task so immense
that you cannot fully imagine the magnitude.
(at least not all at once)

i want to remind you,
that this is what you signed up for.
there is something inside each of us
something that we would never know was there

unless we are forced to call on it.
you suspect it,
or you would not have signed up.

you signed up to find it.
because the only way to find that special something deep inside
is to strip away all the pretense.

All the posturing.
to reach that moment
when continuing no longer seems possible.
and to go on anyway.

but you will never find out,
if you don’t get step up to that starting line

you know what you really want.

What you really want

is to write that e-mail and drop out….


“i’m not ready”

guess what.
nobody is ready.
not for the distance
not for the heat
not for any of it.

so this is it.
these are the critical days.
the race is right around the corner
and you are scared.

well. everyone is scared.
everyone with any sense.
the winner to be to be is scared.
the people who will sneak in under the cutoff are scared.
everyone who will reach the finish in between is scared.
being a hero is not about having no fear.
it is about sucking it up and facing that fear.

if you want to ever find out what you are made of
this is the time to suck it up.
there is a place for you at the starting line.

you are like the kid out on the end of the high diving board
looking down…

that water is an awful long way away from here.

are you the kid who jumps?

or are you that kid who climbs back down the ladder
thru all those other kids waiting their turn?

you signed up for this race to find out who you are.
so, who are you?


About Author

Gary Cantrell writes the “View From the Open Road” column. Gary has written for UltraRunning more or less continuously since his column “From the South” first appeared in Volume 1, Number 1 back in May of 1981. He is perhaps most well-known as the founder of the Barkley, a trail race in eastern Tennessee. (Although some would comment that it isn’t really a race, and others would add that those aren’t really trails.) He is also the founder of the Strolling Jim 40 Mile and periodically organizes a 314-mile run across Tennessee, the Vol State Road Race. He is currently the race director of the Backyard Ultra. In the real world he works as an accountant.

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