This story comes from an old long forgotten running journal; I figured there was not a better place to find a story about hard work than competing in track and field at a Division I University:

“Workout day for the distance men of the Track and Field program was Tuesdays. Today was Tuesday so like many other Tuesdays we ran a two-mile warm up and met at the track to stretch. This day was different though, there was something else in the air, we had just returned home from nationals and lost to by 6 points, a tough loss, we should have won, it makes second in the nation not look so great. We all knew today would be different. Coach started by reading us a quote:

“It is not the critic that counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbled or how the doer of deeds might have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred with sweat and dust and blood, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause and who, if he fails wile bearing greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Did coach think this would make us feel better? I was about to find out that he assumed no such thing. Coach said the workout was simple, a 400-meter workout (one lap around the track) each 400 would be in 70 seconds, and then we would take a minute recovery between intervals, coach said we would decide when the workout was over, when someone did not hit the 70 second pace they were out, we would do 400s until there was only one person left. Then we realized what made this workout different; the entire track team was out there watching the cross country guys, the women’s team too, they had lined the track. We knew this was a workout that we would not forget. The first few were easy but no one talked, everyone knew what was going to happen, we had to conserve energy, it would take every bit of it to get through this workout. There was 23 of us out there, our top 5 guys took turns leading the intervals, carrying the rest of the team. After 10 400s coach dropped the rest to 45 seconds, the whole team was still in. At the 20th 400 coach dropped the rest to 30 seconds and people started dropping out left and right, they could not hit the 70 second mark. By 28 it was just our top 5 guys left in. By number 34 there was just three of us. At the 40th 400 coach said we had to stop doing 400s, that someone was going to get hurt. At this point the three of us had completely lost count, all we could think about was getting around the track and the precious 30 seconds of rest that followed. Our legs were beyond pain, no one could breathe, we had all thrown up at least once. We were locked on pace, not a second fast or slow, conserve energy was all we were thinking. All of the fallen victims lined the track cheering, it was one of the greatest experiences of my life, even the last lane recreational runners had stopped what they were doing to watch the war that was taking place in lane one. Things were a blur, everyone just wanted to be done but no one wanted to give in. There was no talking, silent soldiers waiting to fall. Personally I was past my breaking point. I thought every 400 after number 30 was going to be my last. Somehow I kept hitting the time. My lungs hurt, my legs were cramping, my arms ached. I had to stay on pace, I would not be defeated by the clock, not today. I learned a lot today about the mental aspects of running and life and about hard work and dedication to a goal. Coach said we were switching to 200s in 33 seconds with a 15 second rest, we did three of these and somehow we all hit the pace. After the third one he said we had to get done, we had been out on the track for nearly two hours now, it seemed like an eternity. I could not remember starting the workout. Coach said two more, whoever finished last would be knocked out so that one man would be left standing. We ran one, I finished second, still in. I fell as I crossed the finish line, my legs just gave out. I struggled to stand up, on 15 seconds till the start. The gun fired and I struggled through, finishing second. The workout was over. We all learned a lot about ourselves today, that we could push ourselves past what we believed to be our limits if we could just find the right motivation, if we just wanted it bad enough. I don’t remember much after the last 200 meters, somehow I made it home and fell asleep, I woke up and needed to write the experience down. I think we have all been there at some point in our life, it was amazing and terrible all at the same time.

This experience taught me a lot. The first being that we can all accomplish great things if we have the right motivation, if we want it bad enough but it taught me something else far more important. As hard as I tried that day, I didn’t win, I gave it all I had and I came up short. Sometimes in life you come up short and you have to pick yourself up and keep moving forward. If you have set the right short term goals you can look back at that point and see all that you have accomplished and not feel defeated, it allows you to learn from the set back and keep moving forward proud of what you have accomplished and it allows you to not allow that set back to defeat you. If you develop a plan and stay motivated chasing your dream is simple, but simple does not equate to easy. Nothing in life comes easy, you have to work hard and stay dedicated to the goal, you have to sacrifice and when you have set backs (and you will have set backs) you have to pick yourself up and keep moving forward having learned from the experience.”

“Every morning in Africa a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa a lion wakes up, it knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve. It doesn’t matter if you are the lion or the gazelle—when the sun comes up, you better be running.” – African saying