A few years ago, on what I recall as a very hot day, me and something like 60,000 others were pounding the route between Sydney CBD and Bondi Beach on the annual City to Surf fun run.
This was my first time doing the run, and there were may things that I recall:
I recall we got up late and missed breakfast so started the run on nothing but Crispy Creme donuts bought the night before, I remember the standing around at the start and the huge rows of port-a-loos, I recall my frustration as it took 16 minutes to 'run' the first kilometer, most of which was spent waiting to get across the starting line, I remember the drum like beating of thousands and thousands of feet marching in step, I remember the bands and the crowds, and I remember the zig zag path I was forced to run to pass all the slower runners who had forced their way to the start of the pack.
But most of all I remember three words dangling from a helicopter in front of me and how they defined that race for me. I'd crested the top of heartbreak hill, my legs were feeling like jelly, my lungs were struggling, my feet were tender and my pace slowing. I remember that I was so close to dropping back to a walk, just for a minute, just for one second, at least that's what I told myself. I so wanted to keep going, but every fibre in my body screamed stop, stop, stop. It was somewhere in this internal struggle that I looked up into the sky and saw those three words in big white text on a black background: "Impossible is Nothing".
I didn't know it at the time, but the full quote is one of the most inspiring quotes I've read:
"Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing."
Those three words said it all, they sounded right, and so I didn't stop.
I fixated on those three words, and I chanted over and over to myself Impossible is Nothing, Impossible is Nothing, Impossible is nothing. I sped up, I looked at the people in front of me, and one by one, I ran past them, Impossible is Nothing, Impossible is Nothing, Impossible is Nothing. I came around a corner and could see Bondi below me, so I ran faster "Impossible is nothing", down the hill, and into the long flat section parallel to the beach. Impossible is Nothing. My lungs hurt, my legs hurt, but all I could think of were those three words "Impossible is Nothing". I can't explain it now years later, but in that moment I just believed it, I came around the last corner, my lungs bursting, my legs felt like they had nothing in them, but I accelerated from a run to a sprint, those last few hundred metres seemed like an eternity, but with every step I just repeated my mantra, faster, and faster and faster ... IMPOSSIBLE IS NOTHING.
I crossed the line after thousands of others, and no one but me will ever know the pain I suffered afterwards for those efforts, but those three words changed my life because they showed me something I didn't before know: Yes, I still had physical limits, but more importantly within these limits I had mental limits, limits that stopped me before I reached my true boundaries.
Because on that one occasion, inspired by an Adidas advert, I had pushed myself past my preceived limits, beyond what I'd thought possible, now every time I'm in an event and I think "that's it, I'm done" I don't believe it, unless I'm physically collapsing, and that has happened, I now always believe I can go on, I believe in that moment that impossible is temporary, impossible is in fact nothing, and that that person in front or behind me is suffering as much as me, and the thing that will separate us in the end is the belief on what is and isn't possible.
That's why, after almost collapsing at my latest sprint triathlon, I've decided that I'm going to do a half iron-man this year. It's my way of proving that impossible is indeed ... nothing.