“To conquer oneself is a greater victory than to conquer thousands in a battle. -The Dalai Lama
"How DARE you!”
It’s a powerful phrase, full of emotion, evoking higher powers, suggesting that what you have done shakes the very foundations of all.
Do you dare?
I recall once, at a party, someone who openly scorned athletic endeavors as a colossal waste of time. To this person, the countless hours were a waste, self-absorbed, producing no value for society or for anyone. I did not openly disagree with her, as her mind was made up; yet now, I wish I had. In an activity, in a quest, lies beauty and joy — and even performance art. I like that, Life as Performance Art.
I recall seeing/hearing Gloria Estefan perform “Reach” at the Atlanta Olympics. Her voice was so powerful, and her spirit and words so completely committed to the spirit of the games, to the best there is… I recall the tears streaming down my face as her words called to me. They still do.
Sometimes I think striving for greatness, for achievement, is a young man or young woman’s game. The body’s ageing, and it won’t do what it once did. Then I see what top masters athletes are achieving, and I begin to wonder what still lives in me… and I feel the exact same drive I did at age 23, at my athletic peak, anything possible.
I wonder if nothing has changed. Truly, at times I’m certain of it.
Perhaps someday soon I’ll expound on the latest research supporting the physical benefits of exercise to stave off joint diseases, mental decline, diseases of the blood vessels, dysfunction of lungs, lapses of the immune system. But for me, and for many of us, fitness, athletics, and especially running are more than that. They are a call to the best within each of us… and it doesn’t matter what age you are.
When we dare to explore our limits—whether they be in athletics, or in love, in academia or in a profession—we risk much. We risk suffering. We risk finding out that our limits, our very selves, are different than we expected. We risk a deep attachment to an activity, to an identity, to our own bodies, or to another… and what we are attached to, we tend to prize… and can lose. Yet there’s a joy not just in the journey, but in touching—even for a moment—the limits of our potential, a sort of “rare air” that is so sweet and otherworldly yet so much our home. We see it, and we celebrate it, in the college or high school athlete who hits that finish line with his arms thrust to the skies, completely spent, yet coming home to a moment that if he could bottle it, he could live off it indefinitely. We saw it in Deena Kastor’s face as she came down the final 100 meters of the Olympic 2004 Olympic marathon, her face crumbling in joy and wonder as she realized that a medal was hers. And we too feel it as we round that final turn, our eyes rising up to look at that clock, calling us home, asking us, “Do you truly want this? Really? Are you willing to pay for it? Show me.”
Go for it, my friends.
I dare you.
-Dr. Daniel A. Shaye