Chasing a Goal With Seconds to Spare

James Dunn - Chasing a GoalThe following story describes how James Dunn, having found recovery over 19 years ago, was able to deal with his alcoholism and develop strength and confidence. He has been able to transfer these new-found qualities to other areas of his life; running marathons is just one example.

Coming around the last corner the pain was excruciating. A tight band was across my hips — my legs were leaden. With each stride the pain shot through my legs.

But I had to keep going. The clock read three hours and 29 minutes and to realize my dream I had to finish the Victoria International Marathon in 3:30. Not knowing if I could keep going, or where to turn for help, I thought of my wife’s father, Marland, who had passed away just one month earlier. I was running this race in his honor to see if I could finally qualify for the Boston Marathon.

Marland’s advice came to me quickly: “Keep running and run harder.” So I did. On the final stretch I looked like a human crab — arms and legs flailing away — as I tried to run faster. Others described me more like a human windmill that was experiencing mechanical difficulties. Suffice to say the previous 25 miles were not contributing to a free-flowing running style.

I just wanted to give up. Every part of my body hurt and I thought, “If I give up who would know?” I couldn’t live with that answer. Calling on everything I had left, this crab like, windmill challenged figure careened down the last yards to finish in a time of 3 hours 29 minutes and 54 seconds. I fell into the waiting arms of my family, unable to take another step. After eight years of trying I had qualified for the Boston marathon by six seconds.

It was not easy for me to qualify for Boston. I had to put in years of training and deal with numerous “failed” attempts. It helped to remember what Winston Churchill said when he was asked what his most helpful ability was in dealing with the darkest days of the war, when all looked like it was lost. What Winston Churchill pointed to was not the successes of his life. Rather he remembered the two years in primary school when he was required to repeat the same grade. Others could see that as a “failure” but Churchill saw it as his greatest asset as it provided him with the perseverance to keep on going. The people of England, he knew, needed someone who would not quit when things got tough.

So I learned, too, that not getting what I want, when I want it, is often a good thing. It was my repeated attempts, what some people refer to as “failures” that gave me the strength and courage to keep on going. For that one day, at that one marathon, I was tough enough to achieve what seemed impossible.