Living the Impossible
That’s the very question that alumnus Joel Runyun (’09), a double major in business administration and Spanish, asked himself a couple years ago. And that’s when he realized that he was not living the life he wanted.
So he did what any sensible person in his situation would do. He wrote a list of things he wanted to achieve in his life. But this wasn’t just any list. It was a list of the impossible. First on the list: to run a triathlon. He says most of the list included physical challenges.
“I like fitness because it forces you to come face-to-face with your limits,” says Runyun.
Having only run two miles maximum at a time, a triathlon certainly seemed impossible, albeit more appealing than running a marathon. But, once he achieved the impossibility of competing in a half ironman triathlon, a three-part race that consists of 1.2 miles of swimming, 56 miles of biking and 13.1 miles of running, the idea of running a marathon seemed more and more appealing. Eventually, Runyon decided to try a 10k; then he tackled the half marathon, the full marathon and, finally, the ultra-marathon.
Recently, Runyon ran in a 50k, his first ultra-marathon, sponsored by ChicagoUltra.org, for an organization called Pencils of Promise. Pencils of Promise is a nonprofit organization that raises money to build schools in third world countries that are created and maintained with the help of people in the community. They found Runyon’s impossible hq blog through Google and reached out to him in June.
Pencils of Promise asked him to help raise $25,000 to build a school in Guatemala. Runyon passionately advocated the way they not only built schools, but did so with the help of the community, making it self-sufficient.
“Pencils of Promise’s focus on partnering collaboratively with the communities and building a sustainable education model WITH the community and not just FOR the community was really what ended up drawing me in,” says Runyon.
He agreed to run for Pencils of Promise, and raised $15,000, achieving the impossible by finishing the race. It helped, Runyon says, having someone else to run for besides just himself.
Runyon is now focusing on raising the remaining $10,000 for the building project in Guatemala. Next on his impossible list is the Ironman competition next year, consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a marathon-distance (26.2 mile) run. But for now, he is taking a break from running to refuel and focus on his business, an online marketing agency he started called Impossible Ventures, LLC. On top of that, Runyon is maintaining and expanding his popular blog, impossiblehq.com, which highlights his journey of achieving the impossible. He has also written a book called “Impossible: the Manifesto.”
Runyon says he is now living a life worth writing about, and challenging others to do the same.
“Realizing that you are able to help write the story that you’re given was a huge turning point for me,” says Runyon.
Runyon says his life is proof that anyone can do the impossible. So what are you waiting for?