Giving up is Okay

Running is a sport filled with competitive athletes. While competitiveness is often an effective motivator, it can obscure one’s judgment of when to quit. Some runners are so focused on being the best athlete possible that they often forget that taking a break is a necessary component of success. If a runner beats his personal record, for instance, he may be determined to beat his new record, despite being exhausted from his previous sprints. He only cares about getting faster. This, as I learned a year ago, can lead to injuries that hinder one’s progress, and even end an athlete’s running career permanently. Last summer, I ran everyday religiously. I walked the track twice to warm up, and then ran six 100 meter sprints followed by a cool-down of one more walking lap. As I progressed and my times were faster, I grew hungry for a challenge. One day in early September, I decided to sprint a 200 meter. Bear in mind that prior to the 200, I did my warm-up and ran six 100s. As one can imagine, I was fatigued by the time I ran my final sprint–it was so hot that the locusts were buzzing, my legs quivered uncontrollably from exhaustion, and my heart pounded. I foolishly did not mind my form, yet continued to run. When my form is off, I rely on some muscles too much to compensate for other muscles that are not working properly. About halfway into the 200, I had to stop and walk because my legs felt too weak. The next day when I returned to the track, I could hardly run two feet without falling or swerving into the next lane. Although this should have been an indicator to rest and to let my muscles recuperate, for the next two weeks I tried to run everyday. I ignored the dull ache in my right hip flexor because I believed that it was merely soreness. Looking back, I realize that I pulled a muscle in my hip flexor because two months after that, I had to go physical therapy. I thought I would never run again, and for me, that was heart-wrenching. So heart-wrenching that I avoided every situation that involved running or people talking about running for the next few months. I did not start running again until early June when I competed in the Nassau County Victory Challenge. Unfortunately, due to my lack of training, I was not able to run as fast nor as far as I wanted or expected to. A few feet into my first race (which coincidentally was the 100 meter), I was so riddled with the fear of falling or swerving that I stopped and walked to the finish line in tears. I wanted to run more than I had ever wanted anything. Perhaps the injury would have occurred even if I listened to my body and rested, however it is known that resting shortens one’s recovery time. Therefore, if I had rested during those two weeks following the injury, I could have been back at the track within a few weeks. Instead, I was out for the entire fall season and most of the spring. At the Victory Challenge, I sprinted during my other races, but my running did not meet my standard of speed or fluidity. This summer, however, I have been training at a local track, and I am gradually approaching the level I was at pre-injury. Although I hated not being able to run, I learned that part of being successful as an athlete is knowing when to stop. Humans are not indestructible; everyone has limits, and there is nothing wrong with abiding by those limits.


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