Resilience training

After a running-related injury earlier this year, I’ve been whining about losing the little speed and endurance I gained last season. Instead, I should be glad to remain injury-free. I should be grateful for so many things—what I have, and what I’ve been spared.

Running abounds with inspiring stories of resilience. You think you have pretty good excuses about why you can’t run today, or why you can’t faster, longer or more, but then you hear about people who overcome hurdles—in running and in life—much bigger than your own, and go on to achieve much more. By their feats, they give perspective and motivation.

The 2012 Olympics Track and Field events has featured some amazing stories. Here are the ones I’m most moved by:

The US took second place in a qualifying heat for a 4 x 400 relay race—after Manteo Mitchell ran half of his race on a fractured leg. Mitchell knew his leg was hurt, yet his performance gave no indication the the pain he was in: see a video of the race. (How fast did he run? 400 meters in 46.1 seconds. That’s over 19 MPH!) Interviewed on BBC World Service earlier today, Mitchell was a class act, speaking with high regard for his teammates, and optimistic that his team will do well in the finals even without him.

Of course, there’s Oscar Pistorius, the South African “Blade Runner.” Pistorius’ lower legs were amputated at the age of 13 months; I’d heard about him first via nasty accusations that his prosthetics gave him mechanical advantages. Having won in the ParaOlympics, Pistorius dreamed of running in the Olympics. Here’s a video of him in the 400 meter semifinals. He doesn’t qualify to move on to the finals, but he’s humbled by the chance to fulfill his dream. The race winner exchanges bibs with him in a gesture of fellowship.

Kellie Wells takes bronze in the 100m hurdles. Wells suffered a major injury (torn hamstring), but that’s just the beginning of it—she overcame significant abuse and childhood tragedies. She came public with her story for the sake of other victims of abuse. In a great race, she became an Olympic medalist, and also, despite the individual nature of the competition, and the highly nationalistic context, she shared congratulatory hugs with the other runners. Kellie Wells is huge. I’m a fan.

Everyone runs their own race, in life and in sport. I love this video of the women’s 100 meter, especially the runners’ level view at 2:45. Look at how fast they’re going! Then keep in mind all the obstacles women runners have faced. (Here’s a great slide show of female groundbreakers at the Boston Marathon.) Olympic running events were only opened to women in 1960, and the first women’s marathon wasn’t until 1984. (And of course, 2012 marks the first year of women’s Olympic boxing.) There’s so much more to come…


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