In honor of Flashback Friday, I thought it’d be fun to talk about my high school running career. I much rather tell you about my tennis career because I was actually good at that. But I think sharing something I sucked at would make for a better story…
My first day of track practice in 9th grade was nothing short of ego-crushing. I just came off of tennis season and felt pretty good about how it went. I had easily made the Varsity team and was one of the better players. I knew going into the winter track season that it wouldn’t be the same; I was just using running as a way to stay in shape for tennis, build up my endurance for long matches. And running long distance (the 1500 meter and 3000 meter races) was a really good way to do that.
The track coach split everyone into two groups- long distance and sprinters. I made my way over to where the long distance runners were gathered. Pretty much all the long distance runners just finished up their cross country season. I was probably one of the few people who voluntarily decided to run distance who did not run cross country. The coach told us to run the power lines. First of all, what are the power lines? How fare are we running? Can I stop and walk when I’m tired? Are there snacks along the way? What if I get lost?
The group started running. Everyone was chit-chatting with one another while we made our way towards the power lines. I could barely keep up, let alone talk! And as we continued to run, the “real” runners pulled away and got smaller and smaller while I fell behind. It was probably a combination of them picking up their pace and mine slowing down. But damn, I sucked! I probably ran 3 miles that day while everyone else probably ran 4 or 5 (maybe even 6, I was that slow). The group turned around at some point and scooped me up on their way back to the high school. The same thing happened on the way back—they pulled away and I “walked with a bounce” back to the school.
It was quite clear on that day that I was never going to be the fastest runner on the track team. Hell, I probably wouldn’t even compete with the average runners, but I was determined to get better. And I did. I showed up to practice EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I was one of the first people out on the track after the final bell. I ran on Sunday mornings. I did all the things I could do to get better. And I did! Was I the best? No, and that’s OK! As long as I was getting better, I felt good.
Fast forward a few months. I was sitting at my high school’s annual Varsity Dinner. Each coach got up and presented a couple of awards to players on their teams. The track coach, good ol’ Mr. Dwyer, made his way up to the little stage. He handed out an MVP award (which ya’ll know I didn’t get). But then he started talking about the next award—the “Work Horse” award. And before I knew it, I was being called up to accept! Alright, alright, it’s a little embarrassing that I even remember this but whatever, it meant something to me! I look back on that now and think, I really did deserve that award because I truly worked my butt off during track. I was never going to be the best, but I just wanted to improve and become MY best.
Little did I know, winning that award would later teach me two great life lessons:
- You can work your tail off for something—whether it’s getting a job promotion you think you deserve, beating your PR (personal record) at your race, ANYTHING, and still not get the promotion, or run your best race time, or whatever. You can try really hard at things and still fail. And that’s OK.
- On the flip side, you could know that you’re never going to be the best at something but that shouldn’t stop you from putting your all into it. It should never keep you from trying because THAT is the only way you actually fail- by not trying, by not pushing yourself, by not reaching YOUR potential (whatever that is).
Here’s a cute little example: I’ve run 3 half marathons- 13.1 miles. Each time I’ve run the race, I’ve run a faster time than the last (that’s been my goal each time). The reality is, no matter how hard I train, I’ll probably never be able to run 7 minute mile pace for 13.1 miles, but it’s not going to stop me from trying to get better each and every time I run a race. I’m still going to try MY BEST, IN THAT MOMENT to do even just a smidge better than last time. I mean, I’m a “work horse” according to my track coach, so I’m going to put in the work (work work work work work ß me singing Rihana’s song “Work”).
I thinks sometimes people feel like if they put effort or work into something and they fail then they are a failure. So when they try something and fail, they get sad/upset/angry/disappointed and kind of close themselves up to trying again. They don’t want to try something else and fail again because they think:
Failure + Failure + Failure = I’m a failure
Nah… it’s more like
Failure + Failure + Failure = Growth + Learning + Experience
Think about all things you’ve learned from doing the things you’ve always done? Whomp whomp… probably nothing. Think about the times that you’ve tried something new—what did you learn? You’d be surprised at what you took away from those experiences, big or small.
I worked my butt off for 4 years in track. And I’ll tell you, I never won a race. I never came in first—not EVER. It didn’t stop me from trying or putting all my effort into each and every race. I was OK with knowing that every time I stepped out on the 1500m start line, I was going to run over a full minute slower than most of the other girls. And it was OK. It was kind of a good lesson to learn so young—you mean, I can try really hard and still not be good at something? Umm, yeah. So what you’re saying is, even if I know should get the promotion, I might not? Umm, yeah. But I should keep doing whatever it is I need to do to be MY best self and eventually things will fall into place?
HELL TO THE YES!