I’m a believer that running brings out the best in people. Running inspires. Running unites. Running uplifts. By pushing us to our limits and across them, running takes us to places we never thought possible — or even real. A good run can turn a dark day bright and make a bright day shine brighter. Performed on the scale of a marathon, running can transform communities and change lives.
— Mike Cassidy, November 7, 2013

Not many people have asked me why I run and, to be honest, I have never really been forthcoming about it. I just lace up my shoes and I run. I share my runs and my running accomplishments with others, but I don’t delve much into the how or why.

That being said, there is a reason I run. It allows me to define success on my own terms.

I have had many reversals in life, mostly professional, though a good number personal too. I have fallen down. I have been kicked down too. I have made many mistakes, though I try to avoid to repeating the same ones twice. I have been set up to fail and I have been blamed for the failings of others. (And every one of those times I have gotten back up, though that will have to be the subject of another time.) The one constant throughout those experiences is that the concept of success was usually defined by others.

Running changes things. It allows me, and only me, to determine what counts as success.

Running for me is about setting a goal, in this case a time result, and hitting it. At the end of the day, I either achieved my goal or I did not. I either put in the training prior to the race or I did not. I either showed the mental toughness on race day and crossed the finish line or I did not.

The race clock is entirely objective. It does not lie. It does not make it easy for me. I crossed the finish line, with the seconds ticking down, before my goal time or I did not.

The race course, the same one that is faced by others, is unwavering. I studied it before the race and I know what to expect and when. I know when to push and when to conserve my efforts. That information was available to everyone and so one either takes advantage of it or one does not.

The finish line is fixed in time and space. I either made it to the finish line, and at times I have hobbled and limped to get there, or I did not.

Ultimately, I am accountable only to myself. I set my goals and whether I achieve them or not is, at the end of the day, down to me.

I run for me and me alone. I know that sounds selfish.

Sometimes it feels like it would be easier if I was running for a cause; it would definitely be sexier and make for a better story. Prior to the 2014 New York City Marathon, I was contacted for possible a radio interview only to lose out in the end because I could not offer enough drama. (“Yes, you heard right. I am running for myself. No, I am not overcoming some physical or mental impairment. No, I am not running in someone else’s memory. No, I am not running to raise funds either.”)

It would be easier to turn myself into a sob story or a freak show—I know that sounds harsh—but there seems to be race to the bottom sometimes to see who has to overcome the most adversity to toe the start line or whose story can elicit the most sympathy. And that only those people who are overcoming such adversities or life reversals have a story worth appreciating or sharing.

I guess I am the kind of person who refuses to let a setback define me.

I have been told that my running has inspired others and I think that is great. But it’s not what motivates me.

I think that running a marathon is a reward in and of itself. I don’t think any other special motivation is required to get the job done. It’s not a bucket list item for me. I respect the distance of the marathon. And I think that it is important to honour it by giving it all that I can. And so I do.

I’m not naive enough to believe running is a primarily a charitable endeavor. I run mostly for me. It’s not good or bad — it’s just how it is. But because of the gifts and opportunities I’ve been given, my running has a platform, a spotlight, a chance to affect other people. What it means to them, what they take from it, I cannot control. But what I can do is strive to reach my full potential, giving my best effort each and every run. That I will derive most of the benefits does not alter the fact that the most significant benefit may be the smile it brings to the face of a stranger. — Mike Cassidy, November 7, 2013

I run for me and me alone. I don’t put my name on my shirt even though I know it would help me, getting me cheers from the crowds, and that I would have benefited from wearing it in the past, during difficult times. Instead I enjoy the anonymity. I want to be noticed, if at all, for being the guy who is pushing himself, suffering, and getting the job done.

The commitment that I do make to myself and to others is to give it my all. To not just show up, but to push myself, to push through the pain, to achieve my goals. And if I don’t achieve my goals, then to go back and try again.

I run for me.

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