Saturday, October 04, 2014

Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way (31 Days, Day 4)

Click here for the Table of Contents for 31 Days of Awesome

Today's 31 Days of Awesomeness post is a reprise from one of my favorite posts ever, written back in December, 2009.  It's the story of my running track when I had no business even being the Towel Manager.


I've been thinking about following all the new blogs I'm discovering through the 31 Days project, and it brought to mind a story I'm going to tell you. Some of you may find yourself nodding and understanding. Some of you may find yourself laughing -- and that's ok! I've told this story to my son when he's having trouble not accepting that he can't be The Best the first time he tries something (He is DEFINITELY my son!).

The Track Team, or
Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way.


I have never, ever been good at gym. Ever. In fourth grade, I could only do five sit-ups in a minute for the Presidential Fitness Test. In fifth grade, I fell and broke my arm doing the shuttle run for the same stupid fitness test. Two weeks after THAT cast was taken off, I broke the OTHER arm wrecking a bicycle. And my first broken leg was when I was nine months old. Not nine years old. Months. I've since broken my leg two more times (#2 -- running during Air Force Basic Training, #3, stepping into a hole).

Do you see a theme here?

Yet in high school, for some UNKNOWN reason, I decided to go out for the track team.

I've never been a runner. I hadn't been a runner before I signed up for try outs. I basically walked by the sheet of paper taped to the wall and signed my name. To this day I really can't figure out why in the world I did that.

Scholastically, I did just fine in school, but socially, I didn't fit in, and I was always trying to find my place. I wanted to BE someone, to be good at something, and I suppose something deep inside me realized the track team was too small for there to be any cuts (so I'd be accepted no matter what -- bonus!) and if I joined the team, I'd have to try, because I refuse to quit.

After two days, I wanted to quit.

The coach was an assistant football coach, and I know that deep down (and probably not thatdeep down) he wished like heck he could cut me. I sucked. I was horrible. I wasn't a runner at ALL. I basically joined the team as a lump of "teach me". I had no idea I'd be running so much, which is pretty stupid on my part -- I'd joined the flipping TRACK TEAM. After two days, I was exhausted.

The other problem was since our team was small, we didn't have enough people to cover quite all the events at meets. All the other girls were great (and also not wild that I was crashing their party), but they could only be expected to do so many events. Therefore, I became the Spot Filler. Since the coach never took the time to train me, cut me, or figure out what I might become decent at, I never got good at anything.

One meet, I'd run the mile -- and get lapped. Twice. One meet, I'd try the hurdles -- and fall over the first one. Another meet, I kid you not, I threw the shot put, and barely missed my foot. Keep in mind, in high school I weighed about 100 pounds and was 5'2". Why the shot put?

But I never quit.

I did, however, feel like a colossal failure.

Enter, again, the dreaded Presidential Fitness Test. You remember -- the one where I couldn't do a sit up and broke my arm doing the shuttle run? Oh, and where I lasted on the flexed arm hang only 1.3 seconds?

Here's where I found out that the hours of running actually paid off. I may have been woefully out of my league on the track team, but my insistence of sticking it out really paid off when it came to running the 600 meter run. The gym teacher yelled, "Go!" and I took off at my normal track team pace.

And that's when I realized -- I was waaaaay ahead.

Not just a little bit ahead -- a lot ahead.

At first I thought it was a joke, but this wasn't a teenage feel-good movie or a Napoleon Dynamite moment where everyone roots for the underdog. I'd done it -- I'd gotten good at something. It just wasn't what I'd expected to get good at.

I didn't end up crossing the finish line first, but I was most definitely not the last. The look on my gym teacher's face was worth it all, and the feeling inside me was immense. I'd done it. I still sucked eggs at track, and running has never become a favorite past time. But I kept with the track team, embarrassing and humiliating as it was, and I found that winning didn't always mean crossing the finish line first.

For some reason, I kept running, this time in 5K's at college, and I still came in almost but not quite dead last.  But I was smiling!

There are all sorts of finish lines in life, and we don't have to finish first to win a prize.

Lori Anderson creates jewelry and bead kits as well as collaborative mixed media art with her son, Zack. Visit her shops by clicking on the right side bar of this blog (please and thank you!). She is also the creator of the Bead Soup Blog Party® and author of the book "Bead Soup" via Kalmbach Publishing.


  1. Determination and hard work always pays off and through the struggles we always win. Whether its first or last we win because we are doing something for ourselves to be proud of.

  2. I love this post and can totally relate to being the slow one. I run regularly (5-8k, 3-4 times a week) and am incredibly slow. My husband can literally walk beside me as I run. Still, I enjoy it. It makes me happy to know that my body is strong and capable and maybe some day I'll get faster.

  3. Love that! What a great life experience/lesson to share! And that bright, beautiful smile says you won at something, Girlfriend! 💜

  4. Wonderful post Lori, The last line says it all.

  5. Yes. (From another non-athletic not-a-runner who ended up running 5ks and 12ks for fun)

  6. Look at you. What a cutie. Great story. Thanks for sharing. :)

  7. Great post, very entertaining! The first few sentences (about all of your broken limbs) had me saying to myself "you have to be kidding me"! That might be some sort of record, somewhere, but you preserved with more determination than most people. Inspiring! Thanks for sharing your story. :)

  8. Wow. I wish I had your determination. I am great at starting things but not so good at sticking with them.


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