When I was 13 years-old, during my Freshman year of High School, I decided to run indoor track. I wanted to do something that would get me in better shape for baseball season in the Spring. Indoor track was what all the other athletes did, so I figured I would give it a shot.
On the first day of track practice, about 100 or so students gathered at the indoor track, and the coaching staff was introduced. I played it cool, because I really had no idea what to expect. After introducing all of the other coaches, the head track coach, Coach Hardy, simply said, “okay, now every go meet with your coaches for your team practices.”
With that, everyone dispersed all at once. The sprinters went one way, the pole-vaulters went another, and the high and triple-jumpers another. I stood there. I had no idea where to go, because I had never run track before.
Coach Hardy was the type of man that, when you looked at him, you would never guess he could be a leader of athletes. He had a rather awkward build, and the type of walk that made you think he could trip or tip over at any moment. He always wore a grey sweatsuit that was about a decade too old, and two sizes to small. Despite what appeared to be a complete lack of qualification to coach a track team, he was a very decorated track coach, having trained numerous State Champions, and many athletes who would go on to lead professional careers in various sports. Above all, he was a kind man.
Coach Hardy saw me standing alone and obviously confused. ”Rothamel,” he said (it was a military school, so everyone was called by their last name). ”What are you doing?”
“I don’t know coach,” was the only thing I could think of. ”I don’t have a team.”
“Well, I can find a place for you,” he said. He took a step or two back, looked me up and down, and said very matter-of-factly, “you are tall and lanky, so you’re going to be on the distance team. They are meeting outside, so hurry up.”
A little-bit dumbfounded, but not really having any other options, I turned and ran outside to catch up with my newfound team of distance runners.
When I got outside, I saw the distance team gathered at the bottom of the steps into the gymnasium. It was a group of a ten or so guys. They were standing in a loose semicircle around the distance coach, Coach Moyer. When I walked up, they were all engaged in rather casual conversation. It was obvious to me that they all knew each other pretty well, and had been together before.
It was also obvious to me that, contrary to the appearance of Coach Hardy, these guys had the look of distance runners. They all had that long lanky look that Coach Hardy had used to describe me, but which now seemed completely inappropriate when compared with the physical appearance of these guys. It was rather chilly on that fall day, so most of them had on running tights, little skull caps, light gloves, or some combination of the three.
At this point, I’m beginning to get a little intimidated. The Resistance is beginning to rear its hideous head. I’m standing there thinking, “you are in way over your skis. There is no way you can do this. Look at these guys. They probably woke up and ran from their homes. They probably don’t even use motorized transportation. You’ve never even owned a pair of running shoes.”
For a moment, I was able to quiet The Resistance so that I could hear Coach Moyer. ”Okay guys. I know this is the first practice of the year, and even though many of you already ran cross country, we’re gonna just take it easy for this first practice.”
“okay,” I thought, “maybe this won’t be so bad. Coach said we are going to take it easy. I can do easy.”
Coach Moyer continued, “like I said, we’ll just do an easy run just to get you guys going. So let’s just do a 3-mile run out here on the road. That should be good enough for everyone.”
I almost fainted.
Three miles. THREE MILES! At this point in my life, I had never run more than one mile at a time. Frankly, I’m not sure I had even done that three times. Now, on the “easy” first day, I’m going to have to run three miles? IS HE KIDDING?!
He wasn’t kidding. We all started walking together out of the parking lot and up to the road. The other guys on the team were smiling, laughing, and joking with each other. I, on the other hand, was terrified.
The Resistance was now in full force. Every fiber of my being was screaming at me. Every thought I had was one of anxiety. I was going over scenarios of how I would quit. I was trying to think of excuses.
For some reason, though, I just kept walking towards the road. I don’t exactly know why. I do know that it had a lot to do with the fact that I didn’t want to be embarrassed in front of my fellow classmates by quitting. It also had a little bit to do with the fact that both of my parents were track athletes in High School, and I was praying that maybe, just maybe, a little bit of that rubbed off on me.
Whatever the reasons were, I kept walking toward that road and the beginning of the first 3-mile run of my life.
When we got to the road, everyone stood there in a sort of half-starting pose, just waiting to go. Coach Moyer looked at his watch, and pressed one of the little buttons, BEEP. ”Okay, go!” he said.
Everyone took off; even me.
Now, I should mention that this particular group of distance runners included two runners who would go on to run in multiple State Championships in both track and cross country, one runner who would later almost qualify for the US Olympic team, and one runner from Africa who later ran in two Olympics. I did not know this at the time. Sometimes, ignorance really is bliss.
I don’t know what the pace of the other runners was, but it was definitely faster than mine. After a few hundred yards of trying to keep up with them, I decided that trying to run at their pace would probably end with a ride in an ambulance, so I decided to just run at my own pace.
I also decided that, no matter what happened, I MUST finish those three miles.
The road we were running on was a rarely traveled country road. It was about 1.5 miles from the school to the end of the road, so it was convenient for three-mile runs. I was about one mile or so into the run when everyone else on the team passed me, going back in the opposite direction.
The Resistance was in full force, once again. ”What the heck are you doing? Why are you even trying this? Look how easy it is for them. You might pass out at any moment. Just stop. Is it really worth it? Just give up.”
I was able to shut up The Resistance and keep going. I made it to the end of the road. I thought I was about to die, but I made it. At this point, it didn’t even matter if I wanted to give up; because I was all alone, 1.5 miles from my school, in the middle of nowhere. If I wanted to go home, I had to get back to the school. I was in agonizing pain, but I just figured that I would keep running, keep my feet moving, and if I needed to walk, I would walk a little bit, but I MUST finish.
I don’t know how long I had been running, but it was long enough that it started to get dark. As I was about a quarter of a mile from the school, I saw a car coming in the opposite direction. It was the only car I had seen the entire time I had been running.
The car slowed down, and the driver rolled down his window. It was Coach Moyer. ”Rothamel, I just wanted to check on you. Everyone else has been back for a while, and it is getting dark. I just wanted to make sure nothing happened.”
Damn. That’s embarrassing. I had taken so long that the coach came looking for me. Not one of my lifetime highlights to be sure.
That was when The Resistance was strongest. ”Look, there it is, a life boat. End this. Get in the car. Let Coach drive you back. Give it up. You tried. Let go.”
It would have been easy to give in. It would have been easy to say, “hey coach, can I get a ride back?” He wasn’t going to ask me, but the look on his face said it all. The look on his face said, “dude, you are in trouble here, let me take you back, I don’t know if you can make it on your own.”
When I looked into his face is the first moment I can remember killing The Resistance. It is the first moment I can remember actually saying to myself, “NO. YOU WILL NOT STOP ME. I WANT TO DO THIS. I NEED TO DO THIS. SCREW YOU. I’M GONNA DO THIS.”
I simply said to Coach Moyer through my very heavy, tired breaths, “I’m okay coach. I’ll be back soon.”
“Okay,” was all he said as he rolled up the window, and drove off. After he turned around and came back by me, slowed down again, rolled down the window and said, “I’ll see you back at the school.”
You’re damn right you will.
I did make it back to the school, and it might have been almost dark when I did, but I finished those three miles. It was grueling. At times, I thought it would kill me.
There was no fanfare when I returned. No one to cheer, no confetti, nothing. I was left only with the satisfaction of knowing that I had done it. I looked The Resistance in the eye, and I cut off its head.
The Real Victory
The real value in killing The Resistance that day wasn’t confined to that one day. Killing The Resistance that day was just the training for future battles. During that indoor track season, The Resistance and I did battle almost every day. What I learned from that first victory was that victory was possible. I learned that I could kill The Resistance. I learned that The Resistance has no power beyond the power that I give it.
Learning that you can kill The Resistance is a powerful lesson. It is one that we have all learned at some point, but that we also too soon forget. That one season of running indoor track did more to help me than just about anything I did in my four years of High School. Learning that I could do battle with The Resistance and emerge victorious was powerful.
You Are A Killer
We have all killed The Resistance at one point or another in our lives. I wanted to share this story with you because it has always stuck with me, and I have drawn upon it from time to time when The Resistance shows up in other aspects of my life.
I want you to take a moment and remember a time in your life when you killed The Resistance. I want you to remember how hard it was, how you might have felt on the edge of defeat. Most importantly, I want you to remember how it felt to taste victory.
Now, hold on to that feeling, because in my next post, I’m going to share with you how we can use the techniques required to kill the Resistance, and the momentum we build from our victories, to do some important things in our business, both for ourselves individually, and the industry collectively.