Run your race


This post is a result of a perfect storm of events.

  • My only child graduates from high school this weekend
  • I watched the movie Secretariat again
  • Personally and professionally of late — it’s been difficult

Stay with me through the personal parts — I promise, there is a message for you in this post.

Let’s start with the movie.  Secretariat isn’t just about a horse.  It’s about leadership, it’s about life and it’s about whether or not you choose to go all in.   These are topics that have been on my mind a great deal lately — because of all three events I mentioned.

There’s a scene early in the movie when Secretariat’s owner, Penny Chenery is at the brink of total financial disaster.  She believes Secretariat is something special but if she’s wrong, she places her entire family in ruins.  She comes up with a creative solution but the risks (she has to guarantee that the horse will win the Triple Crown, which hadn’t been done in about 25 years) are staggering.

Here’s what she says in her personal moment of truth.  “We will win if we can and live with it if we can’t, but you never know how far you can go unless you run.  You have to run your race.  I don’t care how many times they say it can’t be done. I will not live the rest of my life in regret and no matter what happens, we are going to live rejoicing every day.”

You have to run your race.  Or you will never know how far you can go.

Penny Chenery chose to go all in.  Because it was the only way she knew how to do it.  Secretariat went on to win the Triple Crown and in fact, he broke records at each of the three tracks and won his final race by an astonishing 31 lengths.  Today, he is still regarded as the greatest racehorse of all time.  All because Penny Chenery had the courage to run her race and let him run his.

I imagine that Penny Chenery spent many nights staring into the dark night, unable to sleep and wondering what the hell she was doing.  That’s the reality of owning a business and, truth be told, of just being a human being that no one really talks about.

There are plenty of great aspects to both but it can be lonely.  And it can be scary.  Usually, there’s no one out on that limb but you.  And sometimes, in the quiet of the night, when no one is looking — you close your eyes and wonder “what the hell am I doing?”

Those doubting questions come faster and louder when you’re weary or feeling like the next hill might be the one that’s just too high to climb.  It would be so easy to just stop climbing.  Maybe even sit and rest awhile.  But then you’ll never know.

You have to run your race.  Or you will never know how far you can go.

I’ve always been an all in sort of guy.  It’s the only way I know how to do it.  The hills before me will level out over time.  They always do.  I just have to be patient enough and have enough faith to keep climbing.  It won’t always be difficult.

One of the hills that has been a pleasure to climb is that I’ve spent the last two weeks literally watching my daughter Kelsey grow up before my eyes as I scanned photos, editing videos and prepared all the fixings for her graduation.  I’ve re-lived her moments of triumph like when her class voted to give her the school’s most coveted award and her personal defeats when things didn’t go the way she/we wanted them to.  Her four year old giggles still tickle my soul and the sum total of who she has become fills my heart.

In those videos and photos, she lived out her dreams of the moment — whether that meant dancing with Minnie Mouse in a parade or performing at the Iowa High School Speech Association‘s All State event.   One of the things I have always admired about Kelsey is that she goes for it.  It doesn’t matter the odds or the challenge — if it matters to her, she takes the risk.  She’s much more brave than I ever was at her age.

Maybe she already knows what it’s taken me 40 some years and a movie about a racehorse to be able to articulate.

You have to run your race.  Or you will never know how far you can go.

That’s my hope for her this graduation weekend.  That she never forgets to run her race.  That she will not  live any bit of her life in regret and no matter what happens, that she lives rejoicing every day.  Because I know how far she can go.

How about you?

I think it’s so easy to let life weigh you down or pile obstacles in your path.  Are you doing something that matters enough to you that you need to go all in?  Are you running your race?  Have you let yourself get stuck in a rut personally or professionally that is holding you back?   Have fear or doubts crept in and tied you down?

I don’t claim to have all the answers.  Heck…I just told you, I want to sit down and rest right now too.  But, here’s what I prescribe for both of us.

Watch the movie. In the final scene, Secretariat takes the lead at the Belmont and never looks back.  I can’t watch it without tearing up.  It is the ultimate visualization of living your life to its finest moment — this remarkable creature was doing what he was meant to do better than anyone else.  That horse wasn’t going to let anything or anyone stand in his way — he was so alive and so full of rejoicing that he flew.

If you’ve opted to sit down and rest — get up.  Get up and find what matters enough.

Run your race.  Find out just how far you can go.



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38 comments on “Run your race

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this, Drew! I recently went all in and opened my martial arts school. I love what I do and know that I can help others reach their potential and go beyond it by using what I teach as a vehicle to cross the finish line with arms held high.
    Everyone has within them that thing that they need to do and while it may be very hard at times, they can make it happen!
    Create a great day!

  2. Joel Libava says:


    Great post! I always get all mushy when it comes to my daughter, too.

    She’s a freshman is HS, and I know that her graduation is going to come up quickly. Enjoy this moment.

    Like you, I’m an “all in” kind of guy. And yes, it’s hard to be all in, every day. heck, Drew, we’re only human.

    Here’s what I have posted above one of my shelves;

    “Anybody can be a halfway man, but the one who rises above this class is the one who keeps everlastingly pushing.” – J. Ogden Armour, Touchstones of Success (1920)

    You and I just have to keep pushing, and things will work out fine.


    The Franchise King ®

    Joel Libava

  3. Dennis Fraise says:

    Great post Drew! I thought the movie was a great lesson in the power of beleiving in what is possible and having the courage to defy the odds.

    Enjoy your daughters graduation and revel in the fact that she will chose the path less tsken because you raised her to be great.

  4. Drew, you’re an inspiration to me. Thanks for this post!

  5. Jill Fleming says:


    Secretariat is one of my all time favorite movies too and even though I always know how the movie ends, I can’t help but tear up too!

    Thanks so much for this post – it couldn’t have come at a better time. I went “all in” about a year ago and have been having my own doubts lately. Thanks for the words of encouragement!

    Keep creating those memories this weekend as your little girl walks across the stage and starts a new more challenging “all in” journey. Know that you’ve prepared her the best way you can to take on what ever triumphs and setbacks she may have in her bright future!

  6. Allen Sale says:

    It is nice to read about not only the struggles but the perseverance, (self-taught), that gives you the proverbial wind at your back to send your ship on its merry way. Life is an all or nothing proposition from the first breath we take. This post, (and my re-watching Randy Pausch’s lecture on achieving your childhood dreams), really sets the stage; turning the creative soil just enough for seeds to have the best spot to grow. I love how things just fall into place like that. Thanks for the reminder and experience all this weekend has to offer!

  7. Cory Garrison says:

    Wow! Thanks Drew!

  8. Doug Pals says:


    Thanks for sharing this. It hit me square. Marketing, leadership and life are about passion and sometimes we get tired.

    Resting can be a good and beneficial thing to do. But, we must always remember to get up to use the talents we have and to do so with passion.

    Thanks again for your post.

  9. Lisa Hannah says:

    Drew – Thank you for sharing such a personal story. I always enjoy your posts, but this one in particular jumps out. I haven’t seen the movie, but will be watching it this weekend! Couldn’t agree more on the parenting front (I have 8 more years until my first high school graduation) and the professional front. Thank you for spreading some very positive encouragement going into a holiday weekend – it’s the perfect sendoff. Enjoy the graduation.

  10. Thank you all for taking the time to comment and validating my decision to share this on the blog. I always second guess myself whenever I think to publish something “not marketing” related because I want to make sure I am delivering what you have come to expect.

    I appreciate your willingness to look at the bigger picture with me today.

    Here’s to all of us running our race!


  11. Dina Giovale says:

    Great post to bookmark for days when you are not feeling so fabulous.

  12. Tracy Geier says:

    @Dina—so true. Drew you always have great posts, but this is your best yet. Thank you for sharing your personal side and enjoy the moments with your daughter. You both did good!

    Even Oprah, on her final show on Wednesday, was speaking of how we should each find our own calling and passion and spend all the time and energy it takes to follow it and make it happen or in your words, Drew, “run our race.” Thank you for the inspiration.

  13. Catherine McDonald says:

    “Personally and professionally of late — it’s been difficult”
    I’ve had about 2 years of that. I can just about see the light at the end of the tunnel.
    Reading your posts, including your personal comments, has given me information, focus, and assurance that I’m on track. I hope there is someone who does that for you.
    Celebrate your daughter. I look forward to your next post.

  14. Rick Byrd says:

    Hey Drew:

    This is a great post. It is very inspiring. I understand how you feel.

    The part I like about the quote by Penny Chenery is “we are going to live rejoicing every day”. This is something we should focus on. We should rejoice every day because not matter how low things seem to be, it could always be worse. As a man of faith, I know that I have plenty to be thankful for and rejoice about.

    I have not had the success online that I want but I am still running the race!

    Take care!

    – Rick

  15. Stan Phelps says:


    Thanks. I just put Secretariat on my Netflix. Absolutely love the message of ‘Run Your Race’.

    Have a wonderful graduation weekend. No mistaking why Kelsey has such resolve. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.


  16. Gavin Heaton says:

    Wonderful post, as usual – but with a real emotional twist, my friend! It takes my breath away that Kelsey’s off to college. May she always be blessed with the courage to go all in. And well she may, knowing her Dad’s there behind her backing her 1000%.

    1. Thanks my friend — your turn will be soon enough!


  17. Ann Handley says:

    Lovely post, Drew. I love your honesty… “That’s the reality of owning a business and, truth be told, of just being a human being that no one really talks about.” And look at that… you did talk about it!

    Congrats to Kelsey and the whole family. I was where you are a year ago, standing in a puddle of both dread and absolute joy. You might appreciate this now:

    Hugs from Boston as you all run your races!

    1. Ann —

      Well — you know how are writer types are. We have to get it out!

      I remember that post well. But it was nice to re-read as we enter graduation weekend! Thanks for lighting the way — I can watch you do it with grace and hope to follow suit!


  18. Drew:

    Thanks for writing this.


    1. Scott,

      Thanks for your kind reaction to it and sharing it with your network. It means a lot.


  19. Kneale Mann says:

    Drew, in a word – wow! Thank-you so much for this post. We all climb hills we didn’t know we could climb. We all find out after the rush that we were actually in our own way. And yes, we all have those 3am moments. None of us escapes them. It’s your human approach as a friend and colleague that makes you the best at what you do, sir. I value your guidance and friendship and you can call anytime you feel the limb is a little too quiet.

    1. Kneale —

      Thank you. Really…thank you.


  20. Ryan says:

    Drew, as a guy who’s going through some of the same trials and tribulations, thank you for writing this one. It was really powerful, and hit me pretty squarely in the jaw (and that’s exactly what I think I needed).

    Thank you, too, for the honor of being able to participate in Kelsey’s celebration. (Eventually.) 😉

    In Him,

    Joshua 1:9 (remember what I said about Tim and the verse he shared with me?), Isaiah 41:10, 13

    1. Ryan,

      The banner was the hit of the party — thanks again for your help.

      I’m sorry you’re banging your head against a wall. I know all too well that it hurts! (Not to mention how wearing it is). If I can be of service — I’m happy to get together for a cup of coffee and a good conversation. Hang in there…you most definitely have a race to run, my friend!

      Thanks for sharing the verse. One of my all time favorite hymns is Be Not Afraid. Seems like the lyrics are right from Isaiah!


  21. Prestiti says:

    Yes, it was a good message… but what if penny was actually wrong about secretariat? and what about the other horses of the last race? it’s too easy to side with the winner, but what about the second place? or the last?

    1. Actually, if you remember towards the end of the movie — Penny realizes that even if Secretariat lost — she (Penny) had still won. It was really never about the winning. It was about being brave enough to follow her heart and her dream. That was the win.


  22. Michael —

    Thanks — she did us proud! She’d be an awesome lawyer — very logical and a strong debater. But i suspect she will lean towards something more in the English/Communications type of a field. But you never know. At this point, I’m encouraging her not to try to decide — just to explore for a year or so.


  23. Drew,

    What a great message for students who may be at the start of their race, and those of us mid-way through. Go all out, don’t give up. I also tear up at the final scene of Secretariat. What made him great was his heart – right? Both literally and figuratively.


    1. Elaine —

      Oh good…I didn’t want to be the only one crying! Yes…it was all about heart. He had the hungry heart to run….and of course, his physical heart was twice the normal size. No doubt both contributed to his success. However, given the choice — I’ll take the hungry heart any day!


  24. Randy Krug says:

    Drew, great post- I recently watched Secretariat, and still hear the movie’s dialogue referenced!

    In the midst of a job search, your words ring true, and I will Run the Race. As Amelia Earhart once said, “Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace. The soul that knows it not, knows no release from little things.”

    Best wishes to your daughter on her graduation!

    1. Randy,

      First — go get ’em in the job search. You know, I’ve come to realize that courage happens in quiet little ways far more often than the grandiose gestures we hear about on TV or the web. So stay brave!

      Thanks for your good wishes — it was a very good weekend, filled with memories, family & friends, and hopes for the future.


  25. Susan Ramsey says:


    I’m a little worried about the strength of the tree on which we’re all perched! Seems like you have a lot more company out there on that limb than you realized.

    This thread is a testament to the connection you’ve created with your followers – and to the respect they have for you both as an individual and a professional. Congrats! From where I’m sitting, there appears to be more than one commencement occuring in your world.



    1. Susan,

      The response and how the post resonated with people has been very gratifying, to say the least. I’m grateful I was able to put into words what so many have been feeling and that when we share those scary moments — they’re a little less scary. So thanks for coming out on the ledge as well. It’s nice to have the company!


  26. Jenn,

    I think sometimes it feels darkest before the dawn. So hang in there…and keep taking your shot. I know, believe me, how much easier it would be to just sit down and not keep climbing. But if it is really important to you — don’t leave any room for that regret to slip in.


  27. Kiley says:

    Really fantastic post, Drew. I always love when a blog dives a bit into the writers personal life…shows they are human and makes others feel they are not alone. Thanks for sharing! Secretariat is going on my Netflix queue!

    1. Kiley — You will love the movie and the message! Thanks for the encouragement to let a little bit of me peek through the marketing messages!


  28. Brian Riggs says:

    Great post and I mentioned it on my blog. I really enjoyed it.

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