The pain began to move from my legs through my entire body, searching for areas that have not yet been punished. It crept slowly up my legs to my torso and continued, agonizingly, into my hardened arms. My body was reaching its limit. I had to look down to make sure that I was carrying my legs, and not blocks of cement, which would help explain the trouble I was having trying to lift my feet up. I put my head down and continued to push.
Keep pushing. Keep pushing. You can’t let up now. You’ve come too far. You’ve worked too hard.
Thoughts like this rush into my mind with two laps to go. The self motivation is all I have to keep myself going as the pain has now reached my head and the noise from the crowd, my teammates, my coaches and my family is just that, noise. They’ve all morphed into one sound as I fly along the blue indoor track during a late winter afternoon in Ann Arbor, Michigan. My body is so heavy now, my head is throbbing. The pain is now making its way to the outside of my body. My face begins to tighten. My eyes are wanting to close, perhaps to hide me from the pain that has now engulfed every inch of my body.
The gun signaling the last lap jolts my body and quickly brings back my wandering mind. Mentally refocused, I push the pain back into my body as my face relaxes and I prepare for one last surge.
As I’m racing down the back stretch I again begin to motivate myself.
Lift your legs up! You’re so close! You’ve worked too hard! You’ve come too far!
As I barrel around the last curve my body seems to want to go every direction but straight. I begin to feel my arms move side to side, a motion which doesn’t aid my lead-like legs in trying to move forward. I can hear the sound getting louder, which I assume meant that I was nearing the finish line. I was assuming because by this time in the race a mix of water and sweat has channeled down into my eyes, smudging my surroundings into mere shapes and colors as I attempted to locate the end of my anguish. The sound is deafening now as I can begin make out the solid white finish line five tortuous meters away. My eyes are nearly closed as I lunge across the finish line. Grabbing my knees, my torso falls parallel with the track and my lungs begin to frantically search for the oxygen that they have been deprived of for the previous four and a half minutes.
As my vision came back and oxygen levels returned to somewhat normal, the reality began to sink in that I had done it. I had accomplished the goal which I had been working towards for so long. I was the indoor mile state champion.
I believe that you get out what you put in.
I believe that the sometimes agonizingly long miles, and near impossible workouts that I have endured over the previous years have helped me accomplish two things: success in my sport and a realization that this attitude of getting out of something what you put into it doesn’t solely pertain to a sport. Whether it is school work, a friendship, or a relationship, I’ve learned that in all of these you only will get out of them what you put in to them. I have come to realize that your life can be as fulfilling and successful as you wish if you come to realize this truth: you get out what you put in.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.