I have to admit that my running career has been less than stellar. In my junior year of high school I won the 440-yard dash and the high jump. Having convinced myself that I had both events in the bag, my senior year I came in second in each of them.
Shortly after taking my first “real job” in Mexico City, I decided that I should start running in order to stay fit. I laid out a mile course through my hilly neighborhood and, one bright morning, set out to run. I failed to realize that Mexico City is located at 7,000 feet elevation where oxygen is in short supply. I spent the rest of that day and all the next day sick in bed. The worst part was having family and colleagues remind me often of just how wimpy I really was.
I eventually got a job in Van Horn, Texas, and decided that I would give running another try. I did fine at one or two miles but when I tried running five non-stop miles I thought I would die—and then I was afraid I wouldn’t. A stress fracture in my right foot eventually hobbled me and probably saved me from a coronary.
Douglas Pautz right here in Blanco County is a runner. I have always admired real runners, especially the marathon kind. (Since Doug Pautz is also my dentist, it would be unwise of me to state otherwise). I watch in awe as hordes of runners undertake to run 26 tortuous miles in heat, cold, rain and sleet in marathons in major cities all across the fruited plain. I could never do that. There is a banner in the LBJ High School gym with my wife’s name on it for winning a Texas state championship in the 220-yard dash. If she hadn’t let me catch her we would have never married!
Roger Bannister was the first man to break the four-minute mile barrier. Several other fellows were on the verge of being the first to accomplish that feat and they had an advantage over Roger. Roger was an aspiring doctor in medical school and his impossible schedule did not allow him the luxury of the regular and systematic training that his competitors enjoyed. But his determination, attention to detail and just plain grit earned him his distinguished place in history.
The following quote is attributed to Bannister: “Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a lion or a gazelle—when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”
As much as I would like to run, I just can’t muster the gumption to do it anymore—especially at my age. How come a guy like Bannister “can charge out of the lab every day, pound around a hard cinder track in thin leather slippers, and not only get faster, but never get hurt? How come some of us can be out there running all lionlike and Bannisterish every morning when the sun comes up, while the rest of us need a fistful of ibuprofen before we can put our feet on the floor?” (Excerpted from “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall, p.13).
I think the truth of the matter is that not all of us have the same gifts. Although I might be a second-rate runner, perhaps I can juggle widgets better than anyone else. The main thing is to know where our strengths lie and to use them judiciously for the betterment of mankind.
It is written, “And see that these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength” (Mosiah 4:27). Those are soothing words to those of us with tired, aching feet…