[#61 Lesson] Marvel at Human Capabilities

This life lesson relates to my previous blog #61 Watch the Tour de France Live.

Just as I described how I Marvel at Engineering Capabilities, I marvel at human capabilities in the same way. I have never been a fan of road cycling, but I love the Tour de France. The reason I love the Tour is because of the feat of endurance that all these athletes put on display for us. For a month straight, they bike all over France, through some grueling stages in the French Alps. This is what I truly love to watch.


Endurance athletes have always impressed me. Although I am a fit person, I would not be able to complete many of the endurance races that this world has to offer. I have completed two half marathons and I don’t have much desire to do anything further than that.

When I was 10 years old my mother shared with me the origins of the marathon we know today. After the Greeks defeated the Persians at the Battle of Marathon, a Greek messenger, Pheidippides, was sent back to Athens to inform the city of the victory. Upon his arrival, he announced, “We have won!” and then collapsed and died. The distance he ran to deliver this message was 42.2 kilometers.

However, this is not the whole story. Prior to the battle, Pheidippides had run several hundred kilometers to request reinforcements from other cities. Then he participated in the Battle of Marathon. And then he ran his fateful last leg back to Athens.

For many years, I thought this was part of Greek mythology, rather than documented fact. I knew that a marathon was an incredible feat, but did not think a human could run any more than that, until I learned about ultramarathons. Ultramarathon runners push the boundaries of recreational sanity in my opinion.

Surely, no one could love running so much that they choose to run 100+ kilometers at a time. I don’t understand it, but I admire the hell out of those athletes. It seems that they are almost from a separate breed. One with a unique genetic makeup that allows them to endure not only the physical, but also the mental challenge of running that far.


I always search for documentaries or short films about endurance sports. Nothing quite compares to an ironman triathlon for the combination of long distances and multi-sport discipline. However, a typical ironman is not enough for James Lawrence, better known as the “Iron Cowboy”. In his film, The Iron Cowboy: The Story of the 50.50.50, James sets out to complete 50 ironman triathlons, in the 50 states of the USA, in 50 days.

I watched this documentary in absolute amazement. I was almost at the point of shedding a tear as I watched him approach the last few states. He put his body through so much punishment, just to be the first person to ever do this.

Although I may never partake in any of these endurance events, I find the stories of these athletes uplifting. The reason I watch these documentaries is to gain inspiration. I use this inspiration and focus it towards my own goals. If James can do the 50.50.50, why can’t I do #17 Go to Base Camp at Mount Everest? Or why can’t I do #47 Set a Guinness World Record? He didn’t come up with excuses, so why should I?

We all find inspiration in our own ways, and for me, it comes from watching others push their bodies to the limits. This is their version of getting the most out of life and they help me to do the same.

Where does your inspiration come from? Let me know in the comments below.

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