In August 2019, I ran the Leadville 100 in order to raise awareness and funding for Clara Inspired, a nonprofit that seeks to cure genetic diseases. My wife and I founded Clara Inspired with the motto “We Can Do Hard Things” since our daughter, Clara, has a genetic condition that will require lifelong care. Leadville was the perfect proving ground for this motto. The race takes place at an elevation of 10,000+ feet in the Colorado Rockies, with 15,000+ feet of total elevation gain where 50% of the runners historically never make it across the finish line. Fortunately for me, I was part of the group that crossed the finish line last year...albeit after 29 and ½ hours.
One year later, it feels like a dream and leaves me wondering if it really happened. I often say that it doesn’t feel like me who ran that race. It felt like someone else, more like...another version of me. I live at an elevation of 350 feet in Virginia and have never been a “runner.” How could I run one of the toughest 100-milers in the world!? I’m here to tell you that it absolutely wasn’t me who ran that race. It was, very much, another me.
There’s a trick that athletes have been using for decades, and it was essential for me when running Leadville. Commonly known as an alter-ego, Todd Herman put a finer point on it in his book, “The Alter-Ego Effect.” Essentially, you trick yourself into believing you are someone that you have never been or never thought you could be. You wear a metaphorical cape and mask, and suddenly, you “become” somebody else and are able to perform. Bo Jackson is quoted in the book as saying “Bo Jackson never played a down of football in his entire life.” It was, in fact, Bo Jackson’s alter-ego that scored all of those touchdowns.
Not to compare myself to Bo Jackson, but it definitely wasn’t me who ran the Leadville 100. Instead, it was the father of a special needs child and founder of Clara Inspired, trying to do what he could to inspire others and attempt to move the giant genetic disease boulder forward...if maybe by just a millimeter. Through the support of so many, we ended up raising $50,000, so take THAT you giant genetic disease boulder!
Which brings me to another alter-ego of mine (being a Gemini, I have many). This Saturday, 8/22, the day Leadville was supposed to happen before it was cancelled due to COVID-19, I will attempt to play 100 songs for this year’s Clara Inspired fundraiser. Or, I should say, my “alter-ego” Casey, the singer-songwriter, will attempt to play 100 songs. It seems like a somewhat comparable “hard things” endurance feat...just without the six days/week training runs over an eight month timespan, the need to acclimate at elevation, the risk of injury (maybe my fingers and vocal chords will feel differently), the necessity of a support crew and pacer, risk of dehydration or hyponatremia, and the overall concern that my body may just stop working.
Nonetheless, who do I think I am, attempting to play 100 songs over the course of 7 - 8 hours? What will happen to my fingers? Will my voice hold up? What if I suck? Am I doing a disservice by prioritizing quantity over quality and therefore performing watered down versions of some of the greatest songs ever written (I’ll be playing songs from Bob Dylan, Bruce Sprinsteen, Tom Petty, Bob Marley, John Prine, etc.)? After all, I’m just a 42 year old guy with two kids, a mortgage, and a job at a really cool InsureTech startup. The regular me couldn’t possibly sing 100 songs in one sitting!
But there is a version of me that can, indeed, achieve this feat. At least a version of me that can be tricked into believing. “I” will not be the one playing these 100 songs on Saturday. Instead, it will be the father of a special needs child and founder of Clara Inspired, trying to do what he can to inspire others and attempt to move the giant genetic disease boulder forward...if maybe by just a millimeter.
So, if you have always wanted to do something but have been too afraid to pursue it, I have good news! Put on a cape and a mask, find another “you”, and you’ll see that it becomes so much easier to chase even the wildest of dreams.