On Jumping Over Hurdles, and Falling With (on Your) Dignity


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

39 thoughts on “On Jumping Over Hurdles, and Falling With (on Your) Dignity”

  1. Sorry, hope I didn’t hurt you as I flew over my chair, knocking it over, running over to fistbump ya!


    Howard Dean style?



  2. Oh, yay! I didn’t know you’re a member of the short community! I’m 5′ 1″ 1/2 on a good day, but you can bet that driver’s license eeks out a 5’2″. Friend, this is why they make heels.

    Loved this post, and how you applied it to the art of making, striving for and meeting goals.

    But the best part was the running analogy. Your hurdles incident reminds me of a gymnastics meet my freshman year in high school. My crush was up in the stands, and so I pumped myself up by imagining the MaryLou Retton-style vault I was planning to do. Instead, I sprinted, bounced at the toe of the vault, and caught my ankle somehow as I was bounding over it. I landed on my head, heard the “Oooo!” from the crowd, and walked from the mats to dead silence. At least you finished with grace. You deserve points for that.

    Happy New Year! Best of luck with your goals in 2011.


    1. Oh, we probably see eye to eye…glad to know another shorty.

      What a story! I’m happy you walked away (mostly) unscathed. My crush was not in the stands for my fall, and a good thing, too, because he’s now my husband. I wonder if things would have been different if he had witnessed my buffoonary? 😉 Actually, scratch that, he’s seen far worse!

      Thank you, Maura, and good luck completing the rest of your 36 goals!


  3. I’m in the Short Club as well. I used to be a towering 5’2.5″, am now 5’1″. I’m so impressed that you ran track and jumped hurdles. Why did I always think that only tall people (i.e.: long legs) could do that? I am in awe of you. And let’s hear it for all the hurdles of life that have us stretch our boundaries.


    1. Love all these shorties! Pretty soon they’ll be so many of us, we’ll be considered average height…maybe.

      Do not be impressed — you must have the missed the part where I said how bad I was at them.

      Yes, stretching boundaries and achieving goals. Happy 2011, Renee!


  4. I did the hurdles ONCE, note the large letters. I was 5 feet even in HS. The hurdles were not my forte, at all. But, I love the writing hurdles we must conquer to success. Happy 2011.


  5. Short or not, you’re ten feet tall in my book, Amanda! I’ve never hurdled in my life, but I did a mediocre high jump a few times…

    I’m sure you’ll have no trouble accomplishing your goals!

    Happy New Year!



  6. Amanda,
    I so connected with this piece as a former track runner myself. I also had that one race and sometimes I still dream about it and its powerful effect on my subconscious, but I do think that running has had a serious impact on me becoming a writer, too. I love to run off alone into the woods, which for me feels a lot like writing. Thank you so much for this post, and happy happy new year. xo


    1. Comparing running alone in the woods to writing is a great analogy, Rebecca. Both can give that feeling of a runner’s high, too.

      Thanks for reading, and wishing you all the best in 2011…the year your book debuts…woo hoo!


  7. I’m still impressed. You know why? Because you attempted to do hurdles anyway. I knew I wasn’t athletic or coordinated enough to crawl over them, much less jump them while running. (Instead, I did marching band, and at times had trouble walking and playing music on my clarinet at the same time. Talk about mental overload.)

    You example illustrates a wonderful point – suck it up and do it even if you’ve failed before. I like the term ‘virtual hurdles’, by the way 🙂


  8. This comment is coming from the altitude of 5′ 7 1/2″ (And yes, my driver’s license boasts 5’8″. But I must tell you height didn’t help me one bit when I ran track. Oh, there are so many teenage memories I’d like to forget . . .


  9. I’ve never been a runner, barely a walker in some cases with my laggy legs and trip-trapping feet, but this race I will run with you, Amanda, and we’ll kick it’s…tush!


  10. I can just picture that painful moment! But you’re right – let’s tackle this year head on and if we fall, who the hell cares! For me, it’s a matter of figuring out which hurdles I want to tackle – and showing up for the race altogether – but I’m excited about the process.

    Happy 2011, Amanda! I know great things are in store for you.


  11. I think it’s great you ran track and crazy that the coach made y’all compete in every event. Here’s hoping we don’t limp across the finish line of 2011 bloody and kind of embarrassed.


  12. Great post, Amanda. Yeah, this business will definitely make you fall on your face…hurdle, after hurdle, after hurdle. Geez, can’t even tell you how many times I’ve felt the sting of the pavement, but, well the important thing IS giving it your all and to just keep at it. Thanks for the positive attitude and advice:)


  13. “There are no losers here.” — Great reminder for the new year!
    I’m not much of a resoltion-maker. This year, my mantra is going to be: Be Positive!

    Happy New Year, Amanda!


  14. Loved this. Great story to parallel the journey of a writer. I hope I don’t fall on my dignity, lol. But like you said, there is no losing, unless you try.

    Here’s to trying and best to you in 2011!



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