Jun 12, 2011

Two Simple Words

This wasn't the triumphant return home that I was hoping for. Arm in a sling, swollen and scraped. With skin missing on both hands and road rash on my shoulders and back, my body is as battered as my ego. Vulnerability is the highest when a man has the most to lose. It’s hard not to laugh at my most recent setback. It’s almost like the Universe permitted momentary foresight into a life that I’ve been desperately been working towards, only to tear it from my fingers as quickly as I became accustom. Years ago, I found myself lying atop a dining room table in a small neighborhood on the west side of Cleveland. Wincing in pain, I allowed a girl with no experience, and a homemade gun, to tattoo the words “Sacrifice” and “Persevere” on my calves. Most would chalk that up to an adolescent mistake, but I eternalized that mistake and made those words the cornerstone of my mentality. Regardless of how my actions are perceived, I’ve always lived up to those two simple words.

This isn’t meant to be a lecture on overcoming obstacles. I’m not a motivational speaker, and I’m sure as hell not the best role model. This is about ideals that I hold deep in my heart. They are the reasons that I get up everyday, and they are what gets me through these darker days.  These ideals perpetually rest in the back of my mind; simple in nature, but incredibly motivating. They are promises that I made to myself when I first began to run. Ideals most likely conjured up while running single track around the Shaker Lakes on one of those hot summer days four years ago. They were promises that were made when running was new, back when my mind was forthcoming and unabashed. Na├»ve but far from delusional, my outlook on progression and sport was uncomplicated and straightforward. I thought about the Greats and the World Champions. Comparing myself to them, the only differences I accepted were time and experience. Denying any other difference enabled my progression as an athlete. It’s what allowed the development of those ideals; to continually work towards the dream, to never accept anything but the best, to find my limits and ignore them, to create my own destiny, to take advice from others but always disregard the naysayers, to give my life in pursuit of that great accomplishment, to patiently wait for that moment and then never forget it, to live my life like I have nothing to lose, to pick myself up off the ground, no matter how many times I fall.

Those two simple words, “Sacrifice” and “Persevere” recapitulate those ideals. A life worth living isn’t always about instant gratification. In this sport, that type of gratification doesn’t exist. There won’t be any half court shots at the buzzer or walk off homeruns. When someone wins an Ironman, it isn’t just the 8 or 9 hour struggle. It’s a lifetime of work culminating in one long day. In this sport, if you want it bad enough, if it burns deep in your soul, you can have it, and no one else can ever take that from you.