My favorite book growing up was The Little Engine That Could.
I hadn’t thought much about the book until one of my last trips home to visit my parents. I found my childhood copy amongst the things that my parents kept from so many years ago.
In reading the book for the first time since childhood, I was struck by how much of my running mentality, and my life, was impacted by that Little Blue Engine.
The Little Engine That Could
In case you missed the children’s book classic, first of all, shame on you. Get a copy immediately.
The Little Engine that Could opens with the Happy Little Red Engine. She is pulling train cars full of toys to the other side of the mountain for all the boys and girls.
But she breaks down.
The Shiny New Engine comes by and the toys beg the Engine to take them over the mountain so that kids will have toys to play with.
But the Shiny New Engine says he is carrying important people and fancy dining cars. No way he could help ‘the likes of you.’
Then the Big Engine comes by, and again the toys beg the Engine to help them over the mountain.
But the Big Engine also says no. He takes big heavy machines and important newspapers for adults to read over the mountain.
Then the Rusty Old Engine stops. Once again, the toys beg to be taken over the mountain for the boys and girls.
The Rusty Old Engine says he is old and weary after working and needs to rest, so he can’t help the toys.
At long last, the Little Blue Engine comes by and the toys again ask to be taken over the mountain.
The Little Blue Engine says that he is only used to move trains around the yard. He’s never been over the mountain. But the toys still ask for his help, they really need to get over the mountain.
The Little Blue Engine agrees to help, and the toys pile in.
The Little Blue Engine starts over the mountain.
As he starts to climb the mountain, he begins to chant “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”
Spoiler Alert: The Little Blue Engine makes it over the mountain.
All the toys get to the little boys and girls.
The Little Blue Engine is very proud of himself: “I thought I could, I thought I could, I thought I could.”
I Think I Can, I Think I Can
This book must have been so ingrained in me as a child, I’ve constantly tried to be like the Little Blue Engine in my life, without even realizing it.
It can be so easy, and so tempting, to stick with what we know.
To be like the Shiny New Engine and stay in our comfort zone: “I do this, but I don’t do that.”
“I’m not a runner.” “I couldn’t finish a marathon.”
But amazing things happen when you try. When you have a little confidence in yourself.
Can I get off the couch and start running? Who knows, but unless I try, I’ll never know.
I think I can, I think I can.
Can I run a marathon? Who knows, but unless I try, I’ll never know.
I think I can, I think I can.
To this day, when running up a big hill (ok, I’m probably walking up the big hill, but the idea still stands) I find myself chanting: I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.
Just as important is to acknowledge your accomplishments: I thought I could. I thought I could.
Chug on, Little Blue Engine.