Readers of this Blog know many of the stories.
I attended three High Schools over four years. I ran Cross Country and Track (and certainly engaged other sports, but they matter less – and, certainly follow no relevance to this post) each year striving, straining for the perfect season. The perfect season defined as no losses and sequentially faster times.
My most certain and potent rivals were my mind and my fear.
At one of those schools, each morning, with dread in our hearts, we would ask a certain coach what the training plan was for that day. Too often his mirthless reply would be:
“We run quarters until Cork pukes, or until it’s too dark.”
Knowing, as did the rest, I would never show such weakness.
They would say amongst themselves:
“Cork won’t lose.”
And, so we were doomed. And, would spend the rest of the day dreading that grueling work-out, while cherishing the strength it gave our legs, our hearts, our team.
I ran countless miles in those years (and, run countless more since). Hundreds and hundreds of miles – each one, all, a triumph of will over pain.
But, between many classes, too many to count, I would sneak into the lavatory, just as the bell rung for class to vomit away the fear I felt just waiting for those quarter mile trials of terror and agony.
That same coach would also say to me before races:
“Don’t look back. Not ever over your shoulder. That’s weakness. Instead, keep them in your sights Cork. Lap those bastards. Run them down.”
Harsh and cruel words, certainly.
But often those training days were the rare times when my father would show up at practice and sit in the stands watching me intently, the suns glint alternating off of his Ray Ban aviator glasses and the pair of eagles with lightning bolts clenched in their fearsome claws, emblazoned across the epelets of his uniform. I could see a mixture of sadness, concern and pride etched in his deeply tanned face.
And, I would run harder.
And, when we were home in the more gentle and loving presence of Mom, he would say, simply, quietly, to me:
“It’s the preparation that matters most.”
So, I learned a lesson during each quarter that turned itself into a golden mile to face my fear, set it aside and stride boldly into the pain.
I face my fear. I remember the face of my fathers (I think of them BOTH when my body wants to override my mind). I give it my everything. And, I believe I can’t lose if I choke back that rising bile of fear and doubt and, only, give it my best.
By the way… I still love to run. I am still seeking that perfect season. And, if I see you in the distance, I will run your ass down.
“Do not miss your chance to blow it” – eminem
Peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.
Brian Patrick Cork
blow, puke, vomit, hurl