Run with Your Eye on Your Why

In continuing our discussion on the common factors between marathon runners and those pursuing their HSE credential, I’d like to share a story. But first, let me give a little background info.

My experience in managing runners came during the time I spent working for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Their Team-in Training program was set-up to provide marathon hopefuls with training resources, event selection, registration, and motivational tools. In exchange, runners would commit to raising a certain amount of money above and beyond their travel fees to help fund research and patient care for the society. It’s a wonderful program and a win-win all around!

One of the motivational tools provided was patient connection. Each runner was paired with a patient currently undergoing treatment. In essence, they were given a living, breathing reason to run! This was by far one of the greatest joys of my job and one that created a lasting impression on ALL involved. While there are countless memories I could share the following is one I will never forget.


John was a first time marathon runner. As a newbie, he struggled with preparation but was a hard worker! He followed his assigned work-outs to the letter, showed up at every group run, and pushed through a number of set-backs during his 18-week training.

He had chosen one of the Disney runs offered that year. It was billed to be a “magical experience” running through each of the parks within the Disney World complex in sunny Florida. It was a great venue, but like all sites, had a few draw backs.

The miles spent in the parks were filled with color and spectators…music and cheers. From princesses and pirates to bands and fireworks, runners were treated to an exciting boost of energy and entertainment. But what race promoters hadn’t highlighted (and with good reason) were the back road sections of the route that connected each park.

To avoid road traffic, the runners were re-routed to long, barren access roads in multi-mile stretches at various points in the race. One of these mind-numbingly boring straight-aways came at mile 16, already one of the toughest points of the 26.2 mile path.

John recalled entering this stretch at mile 16 completely spent. He was hitting a wall. He began to doubt his ability to keep going. There was nothing to distract him. No music. No crowds. Just the pounding of shoes on pavement and ragged breathing, in and out. He felt his pace and his will slowly fall apart. But in the briefest of moments something flashed in his mind that changed everything. The lone sound of that strained breathing in and out in, jolted his mind to Michaela.

Michaela was his patient partner, in whose honor he was running. Just a week before the race, this sweet 10 year old girl had been placed on a ventilator, struggling through her most recent round of treatment. John visited her in the hospital before he left for Florida and noted the overwhelming sounds of the medical equipment keeping Michaela alive. A constant gush in and out, the rhythm of machines and compressed air…like feet on the pavement and the inhale and exhale of breath.

In that moment, Michaela became his fuel. The sound of her battle to survive became his strength. He remembered his WHY and it gave him the courage he needed to dig deep and finish what he started. With aches, pains, and tear-stained cheeks, John (and Michaela) crossed the finish line.


The road toward preparing for and passing your HSE exam may feel like marathon training. Some days you are off and running. Study schedules and commitments are going as planned and you’re making progress on practice tests and quizzes. Others are a struggle. Doubt, frustration, and the long road ahead sweep in to steal your motivation and progress. The truth is set-backs and excuses will always be there. But so will your why!

When you hit the hardest stretch of the journey. Remember why you started. Find your fuel and keep going. Run with your eye on your why!


Let Essential Education cheer you on. Your success is our goal!

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