What started as one middle-schooler helping another lose weight turned into a lifelong accountability partnership and $700,000 raised to fight cancer.
It was the fall of 1996. I was 11, chubby and slow, and with hormones starting to kick in, the chubby part was no longer acceptable.
Determined to lose weight, I set my sights on the Brown Middle School cross-country team.
Not ready to brave that first practice alone, I recruited my pal Dave Crowe. A jokester with a flaming orange buzzcut, Dave was also the only one of my friends I instinctually knew would say yes.
By the end of the season, our running abilities had improved marginally; I could run the entire 1.8 mile course without stopping.
The real win, however, was that Dave and I forged a new relationship dynamic—that of de facto running buddies.
Stepping Up Our Accountability Game
In the following years, we graduated to the three-and-a-half mile loop around the golf course in our neighborhood. We started slowly racking up mileage, taking nearly every step astride the other.
A few years later in the summer of 2001, my Uncle Jeff was regaling me with stories of a great adventure he’d undertaken: a 192-mile bike ride across Massachusetts to raise money for cancer research.
By his telling of it, he had damn near slain a dragon.
As a rising high school junior, the idea of such a great challenge put stars in my eyes.
So what did I do?
Naturally, I called up Dave Crowe.
I vividly remember our first bike ride, all of 24 miles, both of us on too-small youth bikes, following hand-written instructions from my dad. At multiple points during that ride we felt certain that we were lost, until, just before despair took hold, we reached the next turn.
(Please bear in mind, neither of us had yet to own a cell phone or drive a car.)
Halfway into what became a three-hour ride, a deep sense of overwhelm sank in. As far as we could tell, we had cycled off the edge of the map. I was exhausted and scared, and not feeling at all like the adventurer I had fashioned myself earlier.
But: I wasn’t alone.
Having Dave there with me made all the difference. I tamped down the fear. We resumed the light banter that thinly veiled our true emotions, and pressed onward.
From Boys to Men
A few months later, Dave and I completed our first Pan-Mass Challenge.
In truth, we remained terrified right up until we mounted our bicycles, when we became too focused to be scared.
Dave suffered heat fatigue on the first day. On the second day we were so tired that we slept through the reveille bell and were amongst the last riders to hit the road.
But we made it, and though we may have been amongst the last few to cross the line, we were kings.
The (Dirty) Secret About My Greatest Accomplishments
Taking on athletic adventures is one of the great loves of my life.
In addition to the Pan-Mass Challenge, I’ve done a marathon, a handful of half-Ironman triathlons, a Tough Mudder, and even a 3,100 mile cycling trip across the United States.
There is something incomparably enlivening about tackling physical challenges that simultaneously scare you and call forth your strength.
But in truth, I either can’t or won’t do these challenges alone.
For every challenge I’ve done, I can point to a rock solid accountability partner without whom I’d never have even begun.
This summer, Dave and I marked 30 Pan Mass Challenge rides completed between us. In that time we’ve recruited numerous friends to ride, some of them now in double-digits themselves. Our team has raised $703,800 and counting to fund cancer research at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
None of it would have happened without Dave Crowe.
Advice From My 11 Year-Old Self
Sometimes we get caught up in trying to prove something to someone—often ourselves—and we make things harder than they have to be.
But all that matters in life is accomplishing the goals that are important to you.
And, what I unwittingly discovered as an eleven-year-old is this:
Accountability just plain works.
I created Focusmate on the premise that you don’t have to go it alone. We pair you with a live, video accountability partner who works alongside you while you complete your most important tasks.
Productivity scientist, reformed procrastinator and creator of Focusmate. Featured in Forbes, CNN, GQ, Huffington Post. I believe that most global problems would get solved if everyone could do their best work. My mission is to make that happen.