Athletes always say “never give up.” Most of the time, however, it feels like the athletes saying this are the successful ones who have already “made it” while you’re still down fighting in the trenches, grasping at some goal or dream that seems to be completely out of reach. Kind of like your parents saying they understand your problems when you’re a teenager, as if. Never. Give. Up. I’ve repeated those words to myself countless times in racing and training, even while I’m cooking dinner thinking about my next race but some days giving up is all I want to do.
A few months ago while I was training for a running race, amidst the hardest sprint session of my life, giving up was all I could think about. It was over 30 degrees, my legs felt horrible and my mind was exhausted from fighting off the constant desire to just stop and sit down in the shade. I cracked.
The urge to quit that I had always overcome eventually became my predominant focus and so I just stopped. Mid-sprint I came to a complete stop and stood, catching my breath, in the shade of someone’s driveway. It felt amazing! The instant satisfaction of pain relief from leg-breaking sprints, mentally and physically, was all I could have imagined and more.
I stood in the shade, watching my heart rate plummet on my watch…and with it my sense of achievement. Like I had broken the athlete code, I was suddenly very aware that I had quit. Far from stopping for a “legitimate reason” like a physical malady, I stopped because I was simply tired. Immediately, I regretted my decision and I went on to complete my sprint set. No record-breaking times but every time I ran past that driveway on my circuit I got a renewed sense of determination. I wasn’t going to give up.
Okay, so a cliché story in the end but, contrary to popular belief, giving up is one of the best things I have ever done. To this day, whenever I run past that driveway I think about the decision I made during that sprint session and it gives me a little mental boost. I may have quit for 10 minutes but I didn’t give up. So, from someone who is down in the trenches still fighting, go ahead and give up because you won’t do it twice.