What if the 'Unattainable' Really Was Within Reach?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
When setting goals, it's easy to put limits on ourselves. "I can lose 10 pounds, but there's no way I could lose 20." Or, "I can walk a mile, but I'd never be able to walk 5 miles." Sometimes we set limits because we want to be realistic (which isn't a bad thing), but sometimes it's because of fear of failure. If you don't set a goal that's pushing you further than you ever though possible, then you won't be disappointed if you don't reach it. But at the same time, what if it really is possible? What if, through hard work and determination, you could attain those goals that seem out of reach? After reading the story of Don McNelly and Norm Frank, I've learned that setting unbelievable goals might not be such a bad idea.

McNelly (age 90) and Frank (age 79) have been running buddies for years. To say that they are marathoners is really an understatement. McNelly has completed 744 26.2-mile races, and Frank has finished 965--more than anyone else in North America. Frank has dreams of completing 1,000 marathons, but health issues in the past few years have put a damper on those plans. McNelly is still walking marathons (with the goal just to finish), setting world records when he completed 295 marathons in his 70's and 177 in his 80's.

When Frank moved into an assisted living facility last year, McNelly started driving out to see him once a month. Although they don't run together anymore, they still talk about the sport. It seems that these days, McNelly is running for both of them. Frank works hard to keep a positive attitude. Even though he can't run, he knows that he's doing better than many other people his age.

Can you imagine setting a goal to run hundreds of marathons? It seems unattainable, but there are people out there setting amazing goals every day and working hard to reach them. Maybe your goal isn't marathons, but something else you've always wanted to do but never thought possible. As 2010 comes to a close and we start thinking about the year ahead, maybe it's time to start dreaming big.

Not sure where to begin? Check out Optimism and the Power of Positive Thinking and Shoot for the Moon, two of the many SparkPeople articles on this topic.

What do you think? Do you have any big goals you've hesitated to set for yourself? What is stopping you?

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BONNIE1552 6/6/2019
Great story. We're never too old to make goals. Report
The title of this article says it all. I do believe that we are limited only by our imaginations. While it is important to break down long-term goals into manageable steps, I believe in setting "impossible" goals and then doing my best to achieve them. Report
I have learned through this program to set many small goals, as I reach one of them I add to the list, it works for me. Report
Thanks for a great article! :) Report
This is a good article. With a good question at the end. What is stopping me from setting big goals for myself? Past failure. But I have done some big things that surprised me. I ran a tough course 36km long. So I can do it. Thank you for articles that remind that I can and I have. Report
I am inspired, love to read stories like this one. Report
I really needed that!! I'll be saving this one to my Favorites! Report
enjoyed all the talk . love to hear informtion . good job . Report
What an incredible story! I've set a goal to lose 66 pounds by the time my husband returns from Kuwait in January of 2012. I gave myself just over a year to ensure that I can reach that goal, and with the way I've been going with my diet and excercise I'll reach that goal way before the end date. All I hope to accomplish is to live a healthier lifestyle and to be an inspiration to my mother and children. My mother is on a weight loss track for health issues as well which is why I started and she's been such a motivation to me. And doing this together has brought us closer than we have been in years! I feel better, I'm looking better. It's just amazing Report
I've set a goal of running my first 5K in the Spring. My. First. Ever. I have some runner friends who are very encouraging and that helps. Report
I am inspired to set the goal of running a 10K by August 1st (my birthday). I already run 5K, and was up to 5 miles in September when my ankle gave way.....BUT I AM INSPIRED TO GET BACK! Report
Inspiring Blog. Thanks for sharing. Northing risked is nothing gained. I try to set my goals so that I have to push myself but not so high that I would fail. When reach a particular goal then I up the numbers. Report
How wonderful...not only to have a goal and strive for it, but to have a buddy with a similar goal cheering you--and you him--all the way! Love it. Report
Wow it just shows that it pays to reach for the stars.... I was always told growing up that the only person holding you back from your dreams and goals is yourself... All we have to do is keep moving towards our goals and we will achieve them.... Report
This is something I've considered writing a blog post about. Because why not reach for the stars? What some people forget, or so I've noticed, is that the goals don't have to be set in stone. I do goals every month and if I don't reach them I shrug it off and adjust my goals for the next month and push forward. Can't get too down if I don't finish 60,000 words in a novel, or if I don't quite exercise every single day. There is always today and I will use each day to move forward in my life. Report
Wow. I hope I can even walk at 70 much less do a marathon. My biggest dream would be to get back down to the weight I was when i graduated from high school which was 176.4. I was a member of TOPS then and I weighed in before I went to the graduation exercises. I am now up 102 pounds from then. My goal for 2011 is to at least cut that in half. Report
WOW! Their stories are so inspiring and their not letting the ages get in front of them. Great job guys! Report
I've set a goal to "run" a 10k on 4/2 which happens to be my 48th birthday. I haven't run since High School. Just doing the 10k is scary enough, but to actually run it? We'll see what happens. Report
I have set a goal to lose twenty pounds, and at the moment the Christmas holidays are stopping me. oodles of goodies everywhere. Once the new Year is here, definitely, no more excuses! Report
shame of me, I'm more than 60 and run nothing, i reed the page of this two old champions http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/40315
i am impressed

I ran a 5K in September and at the finish, I spoke with a woman who medaled in her age category. She was 77 years old and started running at the age of 68. She said, "I like running races and I always win in my category. No one else my age is running, except my husband!" Report
thanks so much for sharing the story - and for the rest of your blog!! what inspirations these men are! and what a motivating blog! Report
Just the idea that a goal set and started on can lead to a small change and with daily small steps result in big change is amazing. I have a picture of a rock with a tree root growing right through it and I keep it on my journal page to remind me that anything is possible if you just start. 90 years old and still going....that motivates me...thanks Barb Report
Very inspiring. I want to be one of those fit elderly people. I'm going to renew my running goals next year. Report
In general, I believe there is nothing I can't accomplish once I've set my mind to a project. However, there are some fitness goals that I would have liked to have achieved, but aren't happening because of my bad knees i.e. like run in a 26.2 marathon. I can walk that distance, but not run it.

My physical limitations (knees) will definitely cause me to modify some of my goals. Report
I have one and nothing will stop me! It just hasn't happened yet! Report
I think "personal dream-big best" is a noble concept; however, I also believe that varies from person to person. Sometimes, attaining the "impossible" is neither wise nor healthy. I have found it best to carefully consider a lofty goal and research its possibilities and potential harm as thoroughly as possible, rather than proceeding with reckless abandon. Report
without goals, we have no map of where we are going. Our journey would become filled with obstacles that are not surmountable. Set goals and move to where you want to be! Report
On my healthy journey I set a very small goal which I have now surpassed threefold. I set is small because I did not believe I could do it. I now set bigger but very realistic goals because I absolutely KNOW i can. This blog is very inspirational and shows that we can do anything once we are determined to do so. Report
Whenever I think something isn't possible, I remember my students that participate in Special Olympics programs. If a child in a wheelchair can snowshoe, a boy who can only walk with crutches can swim, or a girl with Cerebral Palsy can play soccer.... then there is NOTHING that can stop me from achieving any fitness goal. Report
What an amazing story! It makes you realize that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. Thanks!!!!!!!!! Report
Amazing! We all need to establish goals! Report
When I started karate, I wanted to go as far as I could but I didn't really think I could make it to a black belt. Now I'm totally on track for grading this coming summer.
My "unattainable" goal is a spinning jump in one of the katas. I've been getting closer but I don't know if I can do it. I guess I've got to keep working on it and who knows? Report
"Fortune favors the prepared."
Push yourself to try new things, and when other opportunities appear, they can be properly recognized as opportunity rather than impossibilities.
I am looking forward to returning to visit China in 2011. Part of that comes from changes I've seen in myself since starting SparkPeople - realizing more is possible. Report
Amazing! Very inspiring...thank you! Report
Nothing is stopping me. Report
I appreciate this. When training for what I thought would be my first marathon, I suffered a major injury from over training. I've been hesitant since to try a marathon. I have run a half-marathon successfully, but every time I think of a full marathon I remember my injury and think it's unrealistic. I'm only 55 and love running 10 miles or more, but always seem to resist beginning a training program for a marathon again. I'll have to consider whether it really is a physical or mental limitation. Report
very good Report
I enjoyed this blog. I definitely am guilty of putting things off because I am afraid of failing or I dont think that I can do it. I have always thought it would be cool to do a marathon and I know I am nowhere near in shape enough to do one but am too afraid to find out how to train for one because I figure I probably wouldnt be able to do it. This blog was very inspiring though!! Report
The "unattainable" is within reach -this site has proved it!! Is proving it all the time!!
Happy Christmas!! Report
totally inspiring! Report
Great moving story, I read it to my husband, he has the goal of running marathons. So I had to show him how many they have run. Report
Just what I needed. I was worried about doing my first marthon in 2011, because I felt I am too old :-~ I'm back on track now THANK YOU great blog.
wow, I hope I am fit and well enough at that age to be achieving things like that, and I also hope to have a really good friend still with me. I try not to limit myself with totalistic statements so while I am sure I can't do a marathon (... yet) I can do 5km this run, and next run I can do a bit more, at this point hundreds of marathons is beyond me as a goal, just one is my goal now but I like to move the goal posts so maybe it will be hundreds in the end. This is a great story, not only because of the achievements but also because of the friendship. Report
I think that I have been shooting to low for a long time now. Great blog! Report
This is a really great story. I love friendship like that. Report
I believe, therefore I work to make it happen....if I believe it is impossible then it is but thank goodness I believe in awesome possibilities. Report
I would love to stick with my High goal of losing 100 lbs. But I have been disappointed time and again so everyone advises me to set smaller goals. Now I'm really confused. Should I go back to my original goal or just try go lose ten lbs at a time? Report
Wow, puts things into perspective. If they can do it, the rest of us have no excuse. My push goal is to do a 10K by the end of the year (while doing 5Ks during the year).