You Are An Inspiration

Get out there. Do it. Do it for yourself. Do it for others who might notice. You might just inspire them. Inspiration is infectious. And it’s easy.

There’s no need to climb the highest peak. Nor must you run the furthest. You don’t need to win the big race. Heck, you don’t even need to race at all.

Without a doubt, folks can and do look to the world’s best for inspiration. But for everyone in your town who’s inspired by X or Y famous runner, I’d guess there are 10 who are inspired by those around them: the 74 year old still getting out for a few miles every morning after half a century of running, the mom of three who finds an hour every other day to hit the trails, or the youngster with two jobs who runs every chance she gets. These folks inspire!

What’s it about these folks that inspires? Many things. Familiarity. Relatability. Contact.

In late November, I was back in New Jersey visiting my family. While there, I ran with my sister Gretchen a few times. After one run I recall her proudly relating that one of her girlfriends told my sis that she was a running inspiration. Was it because my sister won a big race? Nope. I don’t think she ran a single race last year. Was it because she ran a crazy amount? Nope. She ran 500 miles last year. So what was it that inspired her friend?

As best I can tell, it’s that she’s a friend, who’s also a mother of two kids, who’s getting out there and getting it done. She’s doing it while running a small business with her husband. She’s running in the same local conditions. None of these things are extraordinary, but they are familiar and they are relatable to another local mom.

Gretchen Norah Hank - Washington's Crossing State Park - November 2017

My sister Gretchen running with her youngest daughter and their dog.

Now, for my sister, the trails are her happy place. After some of her runs, she’ll post photos from it on Strava or Instagram. Her enjoyment from her run is immediately clear, but sometimes she’ll even tag a photo with #MyHappyPlace or the like. While social media can turn into something negative, I feel that we can authentically share our own joy in a way that positively inspires others.

Gretchen Kish - Baldpate

As effective as sharing a photo or posting your workout can be at inspiring, so, too, can a quick chat. I know a minute or two on Facetime talking with my sister about her running can help get me out the door when I’m a bit anxious about or less than motivated for a run.

Of course, in terms of inspiring, it’s hard to beat meeting up with someone for an actual run. After a bit of a down period with running, I know I was inspired to get moving again when I was running with my sister. The same goes when I head out for an off-trail adventure with my 60-ish-year-old neighbor who is a life-long adventurer but who might not call himself a runner. The big smiles on their faces as they radiate the joy they’re feeling boosts my spirit.

One of the great beauties of inspiring others is that it can boomerang back on you just like when you encourage fellow competitors at a race. Not only did it feel great when my sis recently said I inspired her, a few days later she said she was going to do a “Tuesday tenner” and that I should, too. Game on! And that Tuesday 10 miler has now happened three weeks in a row for me and it’s kick started my winter running.

So, whether you’re training relentlessly to crush some huge adventure or are more in maintenance mode with a couple runs per week, you’re likely inspiring someone… and that might just come back to inspire you. Keep it up!

Call for Comments

  • Do you actively try to inspire with your own running or outdoor activity?
  • Have you ever found yourself an accidental source of inspiration?
  • Who out there inspires you and how do they do it?
  • Heck, what is inspiration and how does it work?!
Gretchen Kish - Bryon Powell - November 2017

Mutually inspired siblings.

There are 5 comments

  1. fabien

    Nice post Bryon! I am too shy to pretend I could be an inspiration, but since I decided to move from my couch and start running 3 years ago at the dawn of my 40s, I have started a (french) site where I talk about my passion of trail running, at my humble little level. I like to call it a trail running site for beginners by a beginner.
    I just love running in nature, for the mere pleasure of it. It is my active meditation. Contemplation.
    I race very little because it is simply not really my stuff, competing, performances and stats are not what I look for when I run.
    Thanks for being a source of inspiration Bryon!

  2. bob

    Nice article, Bryon. Didn’t realize that you were from New Jersey. My wife is from Lake Hopatcong, actually Bear Pond – I see that Baldplate Mountain is not far from there! Beautiful area of New Jersey, fer sure!

  3. Debbie

    I enjoy all your emails but this must be one of the best this year! Haha. No, one of my favourite ever because I could relate to everything you say. I am an average runner and perhaps that’s why I draw inspiration from the everyday runners you gave examples of… instead of the elite. As I know, no matter how hard I train, I will never be at that level and it actually makes me feel discouraged at times! However, I have found myself to be that accidental inspiration to others too… simply because I have turned to running to cope with pain and now use it as a way to encourage people to never give up.

    [Posted on Debbie’s behalf]

  4. Brandon Baker

    YES! Even though I have reached a nice level after years of hard work in the New England trail/ultra scene, it is still the everyday athlete, the busy parents or the dedicated older athletes that inspire just as much as Kilian or Timmy- What an awesome sport that we can draw inspiration from young and old, fast and not quite so, First & Last!!

  5. Ashley Sollenberger

    At times I think of my training as a pretty selfish activity – but you are right just getting out there and grinding out the miles can be a big inspiration and encouragement for others. Just the other day I received a comment related to my running that was “keep inspiring.” Made me feel great, and it makes it easier to get out there when I don’t quite feel like it.

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