Over the last two days I've had a great time traveling to two corners of New Hampshire to speak publicly to folks about my life of adventure. The first stop was on Monday night where I headed to Lincoln, NH and gave at talk at the Woodwards Inn. My audience was a collection of folks, 40's and older, who were in the area for the AMC's Fall Hiking Week. I gave a 45 minute long presentation to them about Human Potential.. but beyond that, I had an opportunity to tell them my story about my life hiking New Hampshire's Peaks and how I became an ultra-runner.
I asked the group for some feedback and 80% of those in attendance liked the program, but it was the 20% that surprised me. I try to tell my audience that I've lived my life under this mantra that "you can do anything you put your mind to." This is what my parent's taught me. It troubles me when someone seems to "miss the boat" on this and provided me the following feedback, "You can do anything you put your mind too is a bunch of baloney. Someone with the IQ of 90 will never become a neurologist." I scratch my head at this wondering how they got this from my presentation, and what I can do in future presentations to fix this. Other feedback is the classic, "Sherpa John is completely oblivious to the fact that when he is 60 he'll need knee and hip replacements. How is he training to handle the days when he can no longer run?" While I fully admit that there is a certain level of wear and tear that the body goes through from what it is I do and enjoy, I'm glad to know that when I am 60 I'll have had a hell of a ride getting there. Still, as much as I've heard this in my days of running and hiking, I've really taken some time recently to think long and hard about these thoughts others express in trying to understand why it is that they stress them. Perhaps that it is what they are used to... a generation of folks who have always been told the reason why they can't do something rather then why they can.
Tonight, I had the opportunity to run with the Runner's Alley - Portsmouth half marathon training group. At the conclusion of our 5 mile run, I had the chance to talk to the runners for about 20 minutes about ultra-running, running progression, running without a watch and finding their personal motivation. These folks were attentive, they asked thoughtful and intelligent questions and I could see the gears turning in some of their heads that they too could one day run an ultra if they put their mind to it. I greatly enjoyed my visit with these folks because it was a refreshing difference from the hikers in Lincoln.
So this has me thinking... what are the differences in the trains of though between hikers and runners? Is it really the difference between walking 5 miles in an entire day vs. running 5 miles in under an hour? Why is it that the hikers fear injury and the runners almost embrace it as an inevitable possibility? This brings in the thoughts of actual risk and perceived risk given one's chosen activity. As I move forward with my public speaking and education folks about what it is we all enjoy in the outdoors, I hope to find new ways to turn the 80% of hikers inspired to 90%. I know that I'm above 90% with the runners, I just need to find the connection between the two. This will require me to dig deeper within myself and think of my own thoughts through this adventure progression.
Regardless of the outcomes of these two programs. I had a great time speaking to both groups, and if I inspired even 1% of those in attendance to get out and move... I've done my job and accomplished my mission. But you know how I am.. I'm always dreaming big. Maybe 1% really isn't enough. As much as I accept the fact that I'll never reach and please everyone.. I hope to make a bigger and better impact on those I actually do reach.