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  • Writer's pictureMichael Van Elsberg

Spartans, Stoics and Breaking Impossible

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

-Theodore Roosevelt

In our last vLog, 100 Miles is 100 Miles, Chris argues that we go about our training stoically. I agree with that, insofar as we recognise that there will be pain and discomfort throughout the process--and that we are focussed primarily on the long-term. There will always be setbacks, and we cannot control our environment, but we can control our thoughts and feelings, and how we react to the things that are outside of our control.

Recently, a good friend gave me a copy of the book "Meditations," by Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher. Apparently, the Stoics were great admirers of ancient Sparta, and it makes sense--they had much in common in terms of their focus on simplicity and discipline. And both were also known and admired, for example, for their economy of words, so-called laconic speaking.

So I will try to be brief. Chris and I also say, repeatedly, that we are not ultra-endurance athletes, that is, at least that we are not professional athletes. We are average, ordinary people striving to accomplish a difficult goal. But we are inspired by Spartan and Stoic ideas and ideals. The letter A in the words Breaking Impossible in our logo is meant to invoke the uppercase lambda symbol, the 11th letter in the Greek alphabet, which, for the Spartan's represented Laconia, where the Spartan's were located and from which the word laconic itself comes from.

"Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything."

-George Bernard Shaw

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