The opening segment of the recently-released documentary Makers: Women Who Make America tells the story of Kathrine Switzer, the gutsy young woman who entered the 1967 Boston Marathon when it was still an all-male event. She finished the race (a physical attack from the race director notwithstanding), and literally changed the game. If you missed it, it’s just a few minutes long and it’s well worth a watch, so please click here, and be inspired by #261.
In her opening comments, she cites some examples of things people used to believe about women and running: that going the long distances would make women grow mustaches, or cause their uteruses to fall out. Obviously, it’s laughable today, but I think it’s important to look at old beliefs in their proper historical context. There was so much we didn’t know. And you know what? There’s so much that we still don’t know.
Consider the conventional wisdom of running today, and how different it was only a short generation ago. When I started running, we believed in static stretching before a run; now we warm up our muscles and fascia before we stretch. We used to carbo-load; now we rely upon complex carbohydrates and a balanced diet. We used to think runners should drink all the water they could get down; now we know about the risks of hyponatremia. None of those old ideas seem totally ridiculous to me. They reflected what the scientific and athletic communities knew about the human body. Growing a mustache because you run 26.2 miles? Okay, it’s a little harder to understand. But considering how limited our knowledge of the endocrine system had to have been back then, I’m going to go ahead and give those guys a break.
Looking ahead into the not-too-distant future, what else that we “know” today will seem outdated or ridiculous? Lots of things, to be sure. This is the beauty of human innovation: we’re always proving ourselves wrong. And this doesn’t just hold true for the scientists. Somewhere, on some level, each of us is telling ourselves something that is holding us back. Probably lots of things. Today I challenge myself to think about what some of those truths might be, and consider the possibility that I’m wrong. Being a messy person who prefers to live and work with my stuff in heaps and piles instead of pretty little labeled baskets means I’m disorganized and scatterbrained. I’ll never run a 7-minute mile. Social workers are undervalued, and can’t make a good living. I can’t run without my morning coffee. (Just kidding. That one is definitely true.)
What are you telling yourself that might not be true?