The other night, Rock and I were watching the Villanova vs. Oklahoma NCAA basketball game. It was hard to watch and yet it was exciting all at the same time. Villanova had the game of their lives. Sometimes things just come together at the right time. Oklahoma, unfortunately had a really rough game and it just got worse as the game continued.
Rock mentioned that if he was coaching and this happened, the one thing he would emphasize to the losing team, is that you need to pull yourselves together (Rock is an awesome hockey coach and recently went to the State Championships with his travel team, where they lost a heart breaker that just left them out of the finals. I myself have also coached hockey for many years as his humble assistant!). Some of the players were starting to cry and while the game was most likely over, it is important to remember that it isn’t over until it is officially over.
Sure the score showed that they were likely going to lose the game. But until that final buzzer goes off, the game is still going on. You have to pull your big boy (or girl) shorts up, hold back the tears, and fight. Maybe you know you won’t win. But you don’t let the game unravel in front of you (or should I say, you shouldn’t unravel in front of the game). You go down with dignity and like the top notch athlete that you are.
As we discussed this, I mentioned that a lot of this carries over into running. There are times where running makes you feel absolutely defeated. It could be the weather, your body not cooperating, or a race that simply has gone wrong. You can’t give up. Sure you can walk. If you are injured, or if your health is at stake, then of course stop. But if things just aren’t going as you had hoped, you’ve got to tuck your chin, look ahead toward the finish and keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Two years ago, Rock had an awesome training cycle leading up to the Chicago Marathon. I didn’t say anything to him but I had a feeling he was going to blow his PR in the dust. Everything had just gone right and I felt like the flat course and his fast corral was going to push him to a new limit. Then he called me at mile 18 to let me know that some freak thing had happened to his hip flexor and he could barely walk. He was injured, but okay. Later he told me that he considered pulling over and leaving the course. He had such high hopes for this race and his training had been great. To walk to the finish would leave him with a terrible time. But dammit, he had trained for that race and he was going to finish! And finish he did.
Sure, he didn’t love his time. But he knew that if he woke up the next day with a DNF, he would be so ticked with himself for not just getting to the end. He knew he didn’t have a debilitating injury and he just wanted to finish what he had started. On the flip side, he was able to experience the race in a totally different way as he met so many kind and thoughtful runners who stopped to walk with him or just offer some encouragement.
This is not to say there isn’t a time or a place for a DNF. Some races aren’t meant to be. Some runs aren’t meant to be. If you are sick or injured and need to pull out, by all means, pull out! But always take a moment to reassess. Maybe you need to shed a quick tear. Then tuck your chin and keep going, one step at a time.
Running isn’t easy, and even when we get to a point where it becomes easier, there will always be that run that reminds you that this sport owns you! But just remember that each and every one of you is much stronger than you can ever imagine. When things get rough, as they sometimes will, you are more than capable of pushing through. Never, never, never give up.
Quick side note: I was hanging out with a sleeping baby on Sunday afternoon and watched Rock’s beloved Blackhawks take a strong 6-0 lead against Boston. They looked so strong against the Bruins and had the game in the bag going into the second period. The Bruins came back after a break and scored 4 quick and strong goals to make a rather convincing comeback. They didn’t win, but they didn’t give up. You just never know!