The first time I heard about “the wall” was when I ran on the track team in high school. After school, I would join the team outside on the quarter-mile track that circled the football field. Together, we would warm up with stretches and short sprints, and then a long and easy jog around the track. There was a lot of laughing and trash-talking and singing of Motown in four part harmony as we sat in the grass and touched our toes or stood up to do jumping jacks together. I don’t remember it being a big deal. I remember sometimes I’d have to tape my legs because I was prone to shin splints, but other than that, when the coach said “Run!” that’s what I did. I ran. And I was fast.
I ran hurdles, and sprints, and relays. I don’t remember thinking even once that I couldn’t do it. In fact, I don’t remember thinking about running much at all. I just ran.
But one day, during the warm-up, I was running behind a group of guys. We were jogging the straight stretch of track on the far side of the field. The curve at the top of the course was just ahead, and a few steps in front of me, the guys were talking about an upcoming track meet and the events they would run.
“Man,” one of the guys said to the others, “this is the part right here. This is where I always hit the wall.”
I looked around, thinking I’d see an actual wall somewhere nearby. Nothing.
“No joke!” another guy said. “And that wall is made of brick, man!”
“Yeah,” another guy said, “and sometimes – right on the other side of the wall – is a big ol’ grizzly bear!”
“Man,” the first guy said, “I hate that wall.” They continued on around the curve and out of earshot, leaving me wondering what the heck they were talking about.
Later, a coach explained the wall to me as the place where a runner runs out of energy before the race is over. Their muscles have gone numb and wobbly, and their lungs feel as if they’ve been breathing air from the core of the earth. Their body says they can’t go on, and their ears have shut out the cheers of encouragement from the crowds in the stands. They may only have a few steps to go, but those last few steps seem impossible to make.
When the coach broke it down to me like that, I realized I, too, had experienced the wall. I just hadn’t known it had a name. I’d felt exactly the way the coach described, and I had just run through the wall and through the finish line.
But now, the wall had a name. And a personality. It intimidated me. The next time I was out on the track, I realized the idea of the wall had gotten inside my head. This time, when I neared the curve at the top of the track, I could practically hear the grizzly bear growling at me from behind the wall.
Eventually, I learned to push through the wall again. But it wasn’t easy. It was a long time before I remembered I had what it takes to push through and to cross the finish line.
I’ve been on a Follow Your Dreams kick around here lately. I’ve even been planning something dreamy for people like you who have big, amazing, ridiculous dreams, too. Sometimes, my dreamy plans scare me right back into thinking I can hear a grizzly bear growling as it tracks me down. Sometimes, my dreamy plans get glitchy and I don’t know which way to turn, or why I ever thought I could do something like this, or how in the world I’ll ever be able to pull it off. Sometimes I want to just throw up my hands and run for cover and forget I ever had a dream in the first place.
The truth of the matter is that dreaming is easy, but trying to actually live your dream? Well, that’s quite a different story. It doesn’t just happen. It takes hard work. It takes dedication. It takes a belief in the end product, and confidence that the dream is worth the effort. It takes sleepless nights, torn cuticles, a few tears, a lot of doubt, and all of the “push through it” a girl can muster.
And then some.
I like to think I know the rest of what those guys said that day when they ran ahead of me on the track. I think their conversation ended with the first guy saying, “Man, I hate that wall. And that’s why I love smashing right through it.”
How about you? Has your own dream gotten a bit glitchy lately? What ways have you found to push through it?