You may have heard of Fred Lebow. Fred complained to his doctor that he lacked energy. His physician advised him to take up running in order to increase his stamina. He did and he fell in love with the sport. He quickly decided that what he really wanted to do was to run races. Fred was 39 years old when he entered his first race — and did horribly. He beat only one other contestant … a 72-year-old man. But he was doing what he loved, even if it was in his spare time, and that was all that mattered.
He joined the New York Road Runners Club and organized New York City’s first marathon race in 1970. That’s when Fred discovered that what he truly wanted to do, even more than run races, was to bring people together who shared his love of the sport. So that is what he did. He believed that anybody should be able to compete – regardless of age, background or ability – and the NYC Marathon grew around his inclusive vision.
For the next twenty years Fred’s life was all about the marathon. He poured every bit of spare energy into it. What began as a hobby succeeded beyond anything he had dared hope for, all because one day he decided to find a way to do what he really wanted to do.
Fred’s life ended far too soon, however. In 1990, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. In 1992 he ran his final marathon. Fred crossed the finish line holding the hand of his friend and Norwegian Olympic medalist, Grete Waitz. He died in 1994. A bronze statue was created of Fred in his running clothes, checking his watch. It is now placed at the finish line of every race. One sports writer summed up his life this way: “Fate handed him a short race. With his gall, with his love of life, Fred Lebow turned it into a marathon.”
Fred’s life became different the day he decided to find a way to do what he really wanted to do. You may know what you want to do, but have you decided to do it? That decision is key. Perhaps the greatest power you and I possess is the power to make such a choice – to decide. I can’t guarantee success, but I know that once you make the decision to set out in a direction of your choosing, there will be no turning back. Your life will be forever different.
It may be the best decision you almost didn’t make.
And that’s something you can hang your hat on.