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Beginner’s Luck: How Bad Do You Want It?

What is this elusive IT that we really want?

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A year or so ago, I picked up a copy of Matt Fitzgerald’s book, How Bad Do You Want It? I was sitting in the airport, biting my nails, reading the story about the 2010 Chicago Marathon where Sammy Wanjiru and Tsegaye Kebede fought for the title—the win that was decided within the last 0.2 mile of the race. The remarkable win by Wanjiru came down to a final sprint up the finish, a feat that would have been predicted as likely impossible at the start of the race. Wanjiru had suffered a massive stomach virus the weeks before the race and was reportedly “only 75 percent fit” for the marathon. The win by Wanjiru was epic, and epitomized the answer to the question: How Bad Do You Want It? More than anything, he responded with that last burst to the finish.

The key phrase in Fitzgerald’s book is, in fact, this question in the title. The book recounts event after event and story after story of instances when athletes answered, “So bad!” and where others said, “Eh. Maybe not that badly.”

I have found in my life that this question is a great baseline to figuring out what I really want and how hard I am willing to work to get there.

Sometimes we can sign up for triathlons or running races and be like, “I want it bad!” However, what we are really saying is that, “I wanted to SIGN UP FOR SOMETHING really bad!” or “I want attention or that adrenaline rush on Facebook for signing up for something really bad!” That, yes, I really want! And bad!

But putting in the work to get to race day? Eh. Maybe not.

Oftentimes defining the “it” is a big question mark. How Bad Do You Want It?

What is this elusive IT that we really want? Is it the race, the training and all the sacrifice and hard work to get there? Is it worth the long, tired days, the aching body and joints, the sacrifice of time, energy, money and more to even make it to race day? And then, there’s race day—will you rise up or fall down? Will the weather cooperate? Are you good to plow forward with complete conviction no matter what the day brings? Will you push through or fall apart?

All of these questions go into the giant bucket of how bad do you want it? Trust me, nothing fires me up more to see someone answer this question powerfully with a: MORE THAN ANYTHING roar! To see when he or she sacrifices in training, perseveres beyond all things and places, and rises up victorious on race day. That is some real magic, for certain.

However, I think also there is a unspoken victory in admitting the fact that IT” might not really something we want that badly. There is a relief in realizing that while a race or a goal is worth working towards, maybe IT is not everything, and not worth laying down other things that matter to us.

Everything we do in life has a reason and serves a purpose. We act certain ways to feel better, and that creates a chain reaction to our health, happiness and success. Some of these actions are positive (going for a run) and some not so great (eating a gallon of ice cream)—even though both may feel great at the time. When I am making a choice on a race or a goal, I like to go back to Matt Fitzgerald’s question and start there. How bad do I want _______? The truth of the matter is that sometimes and in some seasons, the ice cream wins. It’s learning to be okay with that which is part of a journey as well. Sometimes I can summon myself up and run deep and into the dark zone. I feel amazing and like the wonder woman version of myself. And sometimes my answer to “How Bad Do You Want It” is, well, mint chocolate chip.

Meredith Atwood (@SwimBikeMom) is a recovering attorney, writer, motivational speaker and author of Triathlon for the Every Woman. Meredith has teamed up with amazing experts to bring programs from peak performance to nutrition to her own sobriety group to her social following. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children, and writes about all things at

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