This I Believe

Alex - LaGrange, Illinois
Entered on February 25, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

This I Believe: Effort

I believe in effort. Effort is the universal yard stick. It can measure any skill, any task at all, with absolute fairness. It equally rewards the record-breaking time of an Olympic athlete and the last place finish of a 75 year old man. Effort is what causes people to grow.

When I was in fourth grade, my mother convinced me to participate in a local 5k road race: The Run for the Roses. I had never run over a mile in my life, and had no interest in doing it. Still, I agreed, and headed to the starting line on race day. My dad, who was also in the race, agreed to run the entire way with me.

Two miles in, I started walking. My sides ached from lack of oxygen, and I’d developed a blister on my left foot. I wanted to stop. I tried to convince my dad that we should go home, but he refused to let me quit. So he started running. Realizing that I had absolutely no idea where I was, and that I would get lost without him to help me, I ran after him.

I ran the rest of the way and finished the race. I don’t remember my place or my time, and I didn’t win anything. But that feeling of accomplishment, standing in the finish shoot with my hands on my sides, sucking down air, was the most powerful thing I’d ever felt. I decided that day that I wanted to be a runner.

Running that race was the hardest thing I’d ever done up to that point. But it taught me that I don’t necessarily have to be good at something to accomplish it, or even to like it. It gave me the courage that, regardless of where my talents were or what I had experience at, I could accomplish anything. It was the first time I really believed that.

I believe it is through effort, through this testing of our own limitations, that we discover our true strengths and talents. I would have never discovered running if it weren’t for that race. Effort builds confidence like nothing else. It teaches the skills of discipline and resilience, and creates an unequivocal sense of pride. It is present regardless of age or skill level, and it can fairly judge both kinds of races: when the goal is to finish first, and when the goal is just to finish.