Be Unstoppable: Leave it All On The Track
Ask any group of runners worth their salt how much they put into their race, into every race, and they’ll all tell you the same thing. “I left it all on the track. I held nothing back.”
Runners train hard for every race and their training is not just running. They do lots of that, but there’s more of a science to the sport than just slipping on some expensive sneakers and going for a run. There’s strategy involved. Whether to start fast and get ahead of the pack, set a pace no one will be able to sustain, or to hang back, let the leaders exhaust themselves, then make a move for the lead at the end.
Which plan they go with depends on numerous factors like where the race is taking place, if it’s a qualifying heat or the finals, who the competition is and what his or her strengths are. How the runner is feeling. Weather conditions. What race is next, if any. Each runner will come to the race with his own strategy, a mental plan of how he wants to run, what kind of time he’s shooting for, and where he wants to place.
But if it’s a race that matters, and most of them do, every runner shares one strategy: give it all you got.
With the exception of some of the elite runners in the qualifying heats, any athlete who doesn’t pour himself onto the track and leave 100 percent of himself there won’t last very long.
In high school I participated in track and field and at times had to fill in and run a leg of the mile relay. That’s 400 meters per runner, once around the track. I wasn’t a strong runner (jumping was my thing) but was at least able to hold my own. I loved the start, the moment that baton hit my hand and my legs began to churn. I felt like I was as near weightless as I could be. I’d take the first turn with ease, leaning into it, my arms pumping, breathing so naturally. By the second turn my lungs were beginning to tighten, my legs beginning to feel heavy. But still I pressed on. Coming out of the third turn it felt as though someone had played a cruel trick on me and filled my shoes with concrete. My lungs heaved, hands tingled. I had to will my legs to move, my feet to find the ground. And by the time I handed the baton off to the next runner I was spent, entirely. I’d done my job and left everything I had on that track.
In so many ways, life is like that race. The longer it goes on the harder it gets. Responsibilities pile up. Challenges get more complicated. Illnesses drop in for a visit. Finances fluctuate, spit and sputter. We deal with family issues, friend issues, work issues. So much competes for our time and the distractions are plenty.
But you know what? That desire to run hard and leave everything I had, every last ounce of effort I could muster, wasn’t decided going into turn three. No, it was determined long before I felt that baton slap into my palm, long before the race even began. That kind of effort comes from somewhere special, somewhere deep in the soul.
I wasn’t the fastest runner but I can honestly say I never finished a race wishing I would have run harder, wondering what would have happened if I’d only given it my all. There was plenty of sweat and panting and cramping but there were no regrets.
That’s how I want to live my life. With no regrets. With no wishing I would have given more. With no wondering how differently things would have turned out if I’d only pushed harder. When I finish this life, I want to be satisfied that I left it all on the track.
Run this race with me. Pour yourself into life. Empy every last ounce of your being as you run this race. It’s the only way you’ll be unstoppable. Challenges may slow you but they won’t stop you. Disappointments may cause you to steal a glance at those around you but you won’t quit. Failures will come and you’ll run through them.
But don’t expect to find that kind of resolve on the fly. Determine it now. Resolve it today. Promise yourself and everyone around you that you will not stop. No matter what. The finish line awaits. You may not run the best race; you may not run the fastest race; but you will run the hardest fought race. And you will finish.
We buried my grandmother on Monday. She passed away last Wednesday, July 6. She was a remarkable woman who never had anything negative to say about anyone. Her positive outlook and quick wit was contagious and truly impacted everyone who had any contact with her.
As is common for me lately (and for many) talk of death spurs thoughts of life. We live once. It’s a gift given us and there’s no exchanging it or returning it. Once used it’s in the realm of history, written into the pages of eternity. The focus of life is not only the tape at the finish line, it’s how we run the race. And I want to run with no regrets.
This has been on my mind a lot lately, no regrets. I work with people every day who are at the end of life and some voice very openly the regrets they’ll carry to the grave. I can see the sorrow in the lines of their face, the cloud in the eyes. They wish their life would have turned out differently. They wish they would have loved more and hated less, listened to that advice they ignored, been more honest, paid more attention to their children. Last year I worked with a woman who lived alone in a trailer with her elderly dog. She had no family, no friends, and, as far as she was concerned, no reason for living. After telling me all the mistakes she’d made in life she said, “I think about just ending it. All I have in the world is this trailer and my stupid dog.” I left her with tears in my eyes and a heavy lump in my throat.
Now, I realize that winding up at the end of life with no regrets means changing how I live now. And any change is hard work.
So with that in mind, here are some thoughts, in no particular order:
* I want to be in good standing with everyone I come in contact with; I want to live in peace with everyone.
* I want to be the daddy my kids need.
* I want to be the husband my wife deserves.
* I want to work hard and do my best at whatever my hands find to do.
* I want to never stop learning.
* I want to make a difference in the lives of the people I know.
* I want to never be ashamed of my faith and take every opportunity to talk about, to defend it, and to encourage someone else with it.
* I want to be quick to apologize and quicker to forgive.
* I want to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume the best.
* I want to take risks and spend some time on limbs.
* I want to recognize opportunities and seize them.
* I want to love others as I have been loved.
* I want to pursue humility and live by the rule of honesty.
Well, there’s my list. Am I there yet? That’s like starting a cross-country trip in Philadelphia and after an hour asking “Are we there yet?” Um, not quite. But I have to think the desire alone is a start.
So what about you? Who’s with me? Who wants to live with no regrets?