Painful But Possible: A Story of Perseverance

From Jeff: This is a guest essay from Janet Oberholtzer. Janet is a runner, blogger, and author. Her most-recent book Because I Can came out in 2011. Follow her blog or connect with her on Twitter (@janetober).

It was Monday. I had a late night during the weekend. I was not feeling my best. The calendar said spring, but the weather wasn’t listening — it was cold and dreary.

Runner - Perseverance
Photo credit: Shawn Carpenter (Creative Commons)

I did not want to go running.

I definitely did not want run eight or ten miles.

This planned run was training for a half-marathon (13.1 miles) I hoped to complete in three weeks. I had already done a few long runs ranging from eight to twelve miles, so I didn’t really need to do this run.

For some past races, I hadn’t trained as well as I should have, so back in January, I had been realistic, but ambitious as I put together my training plan and I’d scheduled numerous long runs.

Now I wondered why.


Each of us has ambitions — feats we dream of accomplishing in various areas of our lives.

It’s easy to begin these ventures with high energy and great plans, but we often struggle with commitment and follow-through.

Too often, we don’t set goals or if we do, they are unrealistic. Then when life doesn’t happen as we planned, our energy for the venture fades.

That’s why we need a healthy balance of proper goals and perseverance to see us through. For me, running has been a tangible teacher of both.

Running through the pain

Running has been part of my life since I took my first cautious steps about two decades ago, after having three sons in less than five years. Running not only became my exercise, it also brought balance to my body, mind and spirit.

The perseverance that running requires carried over into other areas of life: from owning a business to tending flower gardens to parenting (who knew those adorable babies would take so much perseverance?).

One day, I woke up in a hospital bed to discover that 12 days prior I had almost died and nearly lost my leg in an accident. My doctors weren’t sure if I would ever walk again. Talk about needing perseverance.

I replayed memories of tough runs during my recovery, especially when doing thousands of toe curls, knee bends and leg lifts in physical therapy.

I don’t remember my first steps at age two, but I’ll never forget my first steps at age thirty-eight. My doctors and therapists cheered with me, but told me that running was a thing of my past. I tried to accept that, but my decade of running had taught me that our bodies are stronger than we realize.

I figured that as long as I “did what I could, where I was, with what I had,” who knew how far my body could recover? (Theodore Roosevelt)


I walked regularly. I did stretches. I walked some more. Each step I took gave me strength and energy to take more steps the next time.

Perseverance paid off.

Four years post-accident, I had a new doctor who didn’t think I was crazy to consider running again; instead, he encouraged me. I tried it, cautiously. It was painful, but possible. Exhausting, but exhilarating.

Step by step, my body grew stronger until I was a runner again.

Finishing well

So on that recent dreary Monday when I wanted to bail on a run, I didn’t. Completing well at the upcoming half-marathon is important to me, so I will follow the necessary plan to do that. The run was not glamorous. There was no “high.” It was one determined step after another.

As my friend and I slowly checked off the miles (we did nine), I replayed the endless hours of therapy I had done, reminding myself that I had pushed through with that, so I could push through with this run. As I did that, I was struck by the realization of how perseverance creates more perseverance.

So as you dream of new ventures to accomplish, do some research, plan and prepare, set realistic goals. Review the goals. And then, persevere.

Because not only will your current venture benefit from the perseverance, but your next big venture will also benefit from it.

What tips/tricks have helped you persevere when you wanted to quit? Share in the comments section.

*Photo credit: Shawn Carpenter (Creative Commons)