Our team always lost… I always ran at least one lap alone. I had requested to run a different leg. Coach had given me opportunity at a varsity letter as a freshman, if I would run this leg of this event... each track meet.
But it had never been this bad. To make it worse, it was a home meet. I told myself. “I should just not even start. Running these 2 laps alone with the crowd watching? Seriously? Why did Coach even let us enter this race? We suck. I should have just stayed on JV.”
At this point the crowd is quiet, as we all wait for the 3rd leg of our team to run the last 50 meters.
“Let’s go Maile! Run YOUR race.” Coach yelled.
I step up to the line thinking, “Am I really doing this... with all these people watching?”
I got the baton and I took off… alone. I had already failed… I was already in last place,
but I ran.
Somewhere during the first 100 meters, I had to let go of my embarrassment (so that I didn't cry in front of hundreds of people, including classmates). I didn't dog it… I ran as fast as I could. At the start of the second lap a few people clapped and cheered me on. Coach yelled my time just as if I still had a chance to win. He didn't seem to notice or care that we already had lost. He was still there. He didn't care about everyone else.
My thoughts shifted to my goal. My varsity letter. It didn't matter if I came in last place. I was getting that varsity letter as a freshman, because no other female in our entire school was willing to run this race. I was it. As I rounded the last 200 meters, I picked up speed. I was going to run my hardest to finish this.
I had hoped no one was watching. I prayed I didn't hear any laughing from my peers as I finished. But the crowd was watching, and they were all clapping. “Oh great… the pity claps...only major losers get these damn pity claps.” I finished...and kept my eyes down to the ground. I had never felt so embarrassed in front of so many people. Looking back now, I think they were clapping because they wanted to show their support for my situation. I never looked up at anyone to see for sure.
Soon after I finished, Coach found me. “Good job...you met your time.” I looked up and said “I never want to do that again. You have me running against girls trying to get into college!” “Well.” he said, “You are going to run in college.” I just looked at him in shock and defiance…finally I said, “ There is NO way… I SUCK!” I hurried away and avoided him the rest of the meet.
But the reality is, I did run in college. Not only did I run in college, but I got my entire tuition paid for as a cross country and track athlete. I graduated with honors and with a degree in Exercise Science.
How did do it? It began with a coach who did not see failure as an identity. He refused to let me see myself as a failure, or to speak about myself in that way. His belief in me set the stage for my entire adult life. He is the reason I do what I do today. He walked with me all 4 years of high school, and never changed the story he had for me.
I have since thanked Coach numerous times in person. I still see him at all the large races in KC. He always manages to find me even though we never touch base before hand. I always give him an update on my career. I see how proud he is of me.
I always remember one more specific thing he said my sophomore year.
“Maile…if you do what I tell you, you can hit the times I’ve given to you. With these times, you will get a scholarship. The rest of the girls will quit because the training is very hard. They will put something else first. If you just don’t quit, you will get a scholarship.”
And what do I see all the time today?
- People scared and embarrassed at the starting line.
- People quitting on themselves because its hard.
- People giving up because it takes time to see results.
- People unwilling to trust the process.
If you have no one else to tell you that you are fully capable of achieving your health and fitness goal, then let me tell you. You can do this!
Just as I took that first step, in a race I had already lost. You need to take that first step.
Just like I decided to do my best, even though it made no difference at the time. You need to do your best.
Just as I kept training and trusting the process for 3 more years. You need to keep training, even if your goal will take you years to achieve.
It will make a difference. If you just start, you can finish. If you just don’t quit… you will win.
I promise you!