Key moments exist in our lives where big experiences become processed and embedded into our memories, heart, and minds. These moments can leave deep wounds and stay stuck with you or springboard you forward into productive growth. Diving into life wholeheartedly, taking risks, and pushing ourselves means that we will fail along the way. How we get up from the fall and keep moving forward serves as a catalyst for growth. We use perspective to write the narrative about the experience, but sometimes we are so stuck in disappointment, that we are unable to find a way to change the story in our minds.
This is the moment I’m most interested in– Just before disappointment digs it’s tentacles too deeply into our psyche, when it’s most impactful to have a superhero narrator sweep in to save the story.
One of these moments is still crystal clear in my mind from my own experience running in High School.
I’m telling this story in hopes that this will remind you of an experience of your own, and you will find a way to help someone change their narrative and stories…
It was the spring of 1987, Oregon State Track Meet, Hayward Field, Eugene, Oregon.
Our team drove down from Beaverton to the famed ‘FIELD OF DREAMS’ in the track world, where Steve Prefontaine ran his famous races for the U of O and qualified for the 1972 Olympic Games. Stepping onto the track we felt goosebumps from the spirit of the hallowed grounds where running icons had changed the sport forever. Prefontaine once said, “To give anything less than your best was to waste the gift.” Everyone knew we all had to run faster and harder if we were going to win this 5A State Track Meet, loaded with talented runners from all over the state.
I had one problem, however. I was really sick- a few days into the flu, I was struggling to find the reserves I knew I needed to fulfill team calculations for winning State.
When they announced 1st call for the MILE run, I remember feeling dizzy and weak and just hoping for a miracle. I was a hot, clammy, wobbly mess when I lined up for the race. When the gun went off and the crowds were screaming from the stands, I tried to hold on. I was hoping for muscle memory or adrenalin or whatever could help through these 4 laps. I went out fast trying to stay with the girls I usually competed with, for as long as I could…
Slowly I begin to drop away and I remember feeling desperate to have the strength to hold on for my team, but I just couldn’t. When the bell lap rang and everyone started their kicks, I had none. I can barely remember the final stretch in front of the stands, I was so dizzy and tired. When I finished at the back, I dropped to my hands and knees in the infield. As I was grasping the magnitude of the whole race, one I’d worked for all winter and spring, I could feel the devastation of failure settling into me. I had let everyone down. Suddenly, my dad was there.
Somehow he had made his way out of the stands and onto the track and was on his knees in front of me. He grabbed my shoulders and made me look him in the eyes (similar to the picture above with his grandson after a ski race). He had that same light in his eyes you see in this picture of him. He said this: “I have never, ever been more proud of you than I am right now. I have never seen you run a greater race than that one. You gave it everything you had and it’s all we can ask for in life- is to just give it the best we’ve got. You could not have done more.” I felt the devastation lift out of my mind and body. Instead, just like that, he rewrote my narrative into something I’m proud of instead of crushed by even to this day.
He wrote the story for me when I could not see it that way. It sent me on a trajectory in running, college, and life that could have been much different, had I processed it on my own.
For that gift, Dad, I will always be grateful. Here’s to the coaches and mentors, teachers, parents, peers who reach into a friend’s or athletes’s life and grab the pen to edit their story.
Cheers to all of you! Let’s vow to keep an eye out for each other.
After all, every one of us are trying to write the masterpiece of a lifetime.
Dad, you really have inspired us. xo