Track is a sport of self-motivation. Though, technically, you run against other racers, it’s really you against yourself — Can you force yourself to do a little better? Last a little longer? Go a little faster?
I ran track for eight years. It was one big party in grade school, but when I got to high school the pool of runners thinned dramatically. Maybe it was because there was suddenly an over-abundance of other sports and clubs to choose from, but I’m guessing it was more that running in tiny shorts which mercilessly rode up your nether-regions didn’t seem so cool anymore.
The small size of our team warranted that we all compete in events that might not exactly play to our strengths. The 200 Meter Dash had been my favorite, but I competed in 200’s, 400’s, 800’s, relays, high jump, long jump, triple jump…my list of events was full.
Or, so I thought.
One day at practice, even though I have legs like a Weeble Wobble (I’m 5’2” on my driver’s license, but we shall speak of white lies another time), I was somehow convinced that hurdles would be my next piece of athletic glory.
They were wrong.
I came to dread the meets, and looking out at (what I perceived to be) the jeering fans. I didn’t like to lose.
One particular race often replays in my mind; It was pouring and cold, and only three of us were standing at the starting line for the 300 Meter Hurdles. I was yawning incessantly — my reaction to stress — when the gun went off. My start was slow, but I hurried my three strides, took off for the jump, and…caught my foot on the hurdle, falling flat on my face onto the black dirt track.
Yes, after the first hurdle.
Somehow, I was not disqualified — which meant I had to finish the race. By the time I stood up, the other two runners were already halfway done. I could have picked up the pace, and sprinted in with a final, painful oomph to close the gap — still getting third, okay, last place, but at least with a respectable effort. Instead, I tearfully half-trotted/half-limped to the finish line. Yes, my leg was hurt, but I chose the easy out.
Not my proudest moment.
Now, fast forward to the present. Tomorrow starts a new year — a new chance at possibility. It also presents a new set of virtual hurdles.
I choose to make deadlines over resolutions, but they are still achievements to conquer. Goals to reach. In some cases, I’ll need to muster the strength, stamina and drive to complete a task when natural talent is lacking. The business of writing is not all finger-snaps and creative juices, and only the ones with a strong finish (or those who finish at all) will get results. That goes with any goal in life.
Virtual hurdles are many. We’re forced to stretch our best leg forward, lean, extend, leap. And, if you happen to land on your, um, dignity, instead of your feet, you can at least do it with that…dignity. Forget the tears, forget the excuses. Get up. Run. Jump. Land. Succeed. Or, try again.
There are no losers here.
May 2011 present your finest race ever. Happy New Year, all!
*Find me on Twitter @amandahoving