It was Sophomore year in high school. One year after “dreams” of following my State Champion brothers into wrestling died on Day 1 of wrestling practice — crushed with my broken leg beneath the 300 pound coach. One year after I lost all interest in football, as playing meant tolerating the abuse of a disgruntled ex-Oakland Raider, who seemed devastated because he and his injured knees were coaching AA High School Football in Ely, Nevada, instead of playing linebacker in Super Bowls. (That was my take, back then.)
Winter sports season approached, and I wanted to be in some sport — to stay in touch with my friends, and to have any prospect of dating. I knew I wouldn’t be wrestling, and my basketball experience was virtually nil. At 6’2″ tall, however, I knew I stood a fair chance of making the JV team on height alone, if I could get over one last hurdle:
I hated running, in all its forms. I weighed 215 pounds, was completely out of shape, and memories of football and wrestling conditioning lingered.
But something snapped: I wanted to play more than anything else, and I mentally committed to myself: “I will not quit because of the running.”
Within minutes of practice beginning, I found myself calling on my mantra. “I will not quit because of the running.” As we ended on a brutal set of “Bobcats” — a progressive “ladder” running drill, in which you sprint baseline to foul line and back, then half court and back, then opposite foul line and back, then opposite baseline and back — I was dizzy and felt like throwing up, but with each step I was chanting in my head, “I will NOT quit because of the running.”
I don’t know how it happened, and of course it took me a few weeks to get past the agony, but my decision to refuse to quit marked a turning point in my life. I refused to fail myself.
It’s one thing to be struck down by accidents or beaten by better opponents. It is quite another to give less of yourself than you can, and fail for lack of trying.
A few years later in a college “Philosophy of Ethics” class, the teacher summed up a semester by saying, “Ethics are those things you just won’t do.”
I just won’t quit because of the running!
Keep Running, Friends!