I remember when I was in my most ardent Bruce Lee fan stage as a young teen. I read that the iconic martial artist and movie star used to practice so hard and so long that he would need to crawl home. The story has the air of being apocryphal, but it made quite the impression on me.
I thought of the story this morning when my friends and I finishing up what turned out to be a very hard speed workout. The assignment was a cutdown run, in which you run each mile faster than the previous one. This is particularly difficult because pacing yourself is not an exact science, and it’s easy to start too fast. At this point, you are certainly going to suffer in completing the workout.
When I saw my friend and asked her how it went, she said it was hard. Very hard. So hard that there were tears when the last painful mile was done. I later told her how remarkable and admirable it was that she could push herself to this point.
To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift. — Steve Prefontaine
We have likely all seen videos of athletes crawling to the finish of a big race. These are hard for me to watch. The stakes of these events are usually high.
What we don’t see, however, are the athletes like my friend who push themselves simply for the purpose of being their best.
The vision of a champion is bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion, when nobody else is looking. Mia Hamm
Once, when I was at football practice in high school, the triple-digit temperatures were too much for me. First, I threw up whatever I had in me and then started dry-heaving when there was nothing left. I can remember a bit of strange pride when my coach complimented me on my ability to get back in line for the next drill.
Since I was small, society has been propagating any and all labor-saving devices possible: leaf blowers instead of rakes; remote controls instead of manually changing channels; automatic dishwashers instead of hand-washing. All of these are fine in their own way. But choosing to work hard — this is counter-culture living.
World Cross Country champion Paul Tergat said, “Ask yourself: ‘Can I give more?’. The answer is usually: ‘Yes” It is this belief that we have more to give that causes us to push ourselves to the point of exhaustion or collapse. If we thought we had reached the limit of our ability, then what would be left? Instead, we hold out that we have more.
This belief, that there is something left untapped, keeps us ever moving forward. Next Thursday, my friends and I will be back on the trail, seeking just a bit more, sacrificing nothing.