Part Three of ‘Why We Play the Game’
By Jared Baldwin
I just shared a link, on my Facebook, to an ESPN article about a remarkable story of endurance. Back in 2007 a high school senior made a commitment to run in the Ohio State Cross Country Championship.
Although in her junior year at Berkshire High School she watched the championships from the stands, she knew that if she trained hard she could accomplish her goal of competing at the state level. She ran brilliantly, on pace to break her personal record. But near the end of the race, with 400 meters to go, she heard a crack in her leg. At 200 meters it happened again followed by her leg totally giving out on her.
What she thought was minor leg pain in the weeks leading up to the race was actually a fracture, and with only a few hundred feet to the finish line, the leg broke, sending her to the ground in agony. At this point in the story, you may ask yourself, “What would I have done if I were her? Would I stay down or would I try to get back up?”
Nobody would have blamed her for quitting. Her injury was more severe than anything they had ever seen in a high school cross country meet. Yet, she had made a commitment to not only run, but finish. She didn’t want to just show up, she wanted to complete what she started in the bleachers a year earlier.
And finish is exactly what she did.
Much to the shock of the hundreds of spectators, she crawled the remaining 600 feet to the finish line. It was an amazing and courageous gesture. Many people watch a cross country race and think of it as a feat of endurance, but this high school student proved that some levels of endurance are tested beyond a simple finish line.
Isn’t it odd that we put ourselves through any pain at all? We willingly subject our mind and body to periods of near torture. And the reward for our torture is often a pat on the back, a high five, a t-shirt or a little trophy. All sports have a certain “endurance” factor.
Some sports are even called “endurance sports”. You can participate in an “endurance event” and cycle, swim and/or run your body to the limit.
But why do we do it?
The natural, self-protecting nature of the human body should avoid pain and discomfort. Yet, God has hard wired into the spirit of every man and woman a will to persevere. This perseverance keeps us pushing through the pain.
Endurance Is a Skill
Just like any talent, an athlete might be born with a natural, raw form of endurance. But to effectively harness the power of endurance he or she must exercise it. Endurance can be increased and improved allowing a man like Dean Karzanes to run almost 300 miles without stopping or a woman like Penny Palfrey to swim almost all of the way from Cuba to Florida.
They didn’t wake up one day and just go out and do these amazing things. They spent years, steadily increasing their skills of endurance until they could accomplish the seemingly impossible.
You may never have to drag your broken leg across a finish line. You might never try to run an ultra marathon or swim from one island to another.
But, if you endure… endure regular hours of exercise, early morning workouts, game after game in the blazing sun or the sweltering gym, you can accomplish the amazing and sometimes impossible.
(Next time we will look at the quality that demonstrates the best of what sports has to offer- Sportsmanship.)
Jared Baldwin has been coaching youth sports for more than 15 years. He has been involved in sports as a coach, a fan, a parent and an athlete. He and his wife Tammy, and children Kayla, Andrew and Zachary lived on Guam from 2002-2009 and then returned to Guam in July 2011. He used to write for Directions magazine and works for Harvest as a cross country coach and assistant Pastor.
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