Thursday, October 1, 2009

Never Quit

I have only quit one time in my life...

one time.

It was the first beautiful Saturday in the spring of my 8th grade existence. Our neighborhood, being blessed with way over 50 kids living on several small streets, was being its usual active self. The sun was shining and the temperature was mild. Lots of bike riding, roller skating, and kick ball was happening on Pleasant Place that afternoon.

A celebration after a winter of watching Gilligan's Island re-runs.

It was the kind of day when kids coming out of hibernation want to show off the strength and growth of the past season. Somehow, I found myself challenged to a foot race around the block with the very athletic-played-college-basketball boy next door who, btw, hated my girl guts for having beaten him previously the year before.

"It's because he wasn't wearing his Red Ball Jets!" his younger sister had angrily lamented last year after her brother's defeat.

I was the reigning Queen of Speed both of my neighborhood and grade school playground. FYI: There was only one boy who I could never dominate, and he later became the State Decathalon Champion. Ironically, he, too, lived on my block, but I knew better than to engage him in a race; our contests were strictly limited to verbal sparring.

If you understand the dynamics of neighborhood contests of this magnitude, then you will know that these spur-of-the-moment challenges were highly significant because they usually occured only annually, usually in the spring. It was definitely a King- of -the- Hill mentality with the winner holding the title for at least a year or until some kid experienced enough of a growth spurt to challenge the title holder.

I remember not being happy about the length of the course, for I was a sprinter of the much shorter variety (50 to 100 yards), but the neighborhood pressure was great and around the block didn't sound very long (It was the equivalent of slightly over 400 metres).

I remember sucking wind while making the first turn (about 1/2 way) and the momentum of running down the very steep Hall Drive hill carried me only a tiny bit further.

I remember the switch in my brain that said...

"I quit".

My 13 year- old body collapsed at the 3/4ths mark, and the boy-next-door cruised his way to victory with the entire neighborhood waiting at the finish line.

My days of challenging boys to athletic contests came crashing to an end. A girl can't expect to be faster than the most athletic boys in her city forever, so I don't lament my defeat. What I lament is that I quit and did not finish strong. I could have gotten up and pushed myself across the finishline, but...

I laid on the ground feeling humiliation and defeat for a very long time.

When I finally had the strength to make my way home, the crowd had long dispersed, going back to their bike riding and kick ball games.

I wish I had finished the race. I wish I had looked my opponent in the eyes and said, "Good race."

I wish I had not quit.

I have only quit one time in my time.

It will never happen again.


  1. Guess what oh Queen of Speed..we do not remember the fact that you quit, we remember the fact that it wasn't until you had "hurt" yourself that you went from 1st to 2nd place. I was home in August and that boy and I were having dinner together talking about things that inspired us to keep working harder and play ball at in college..His number 1 reason was losing those 2 races to the "girl" next door. Somehow playing college ball erased those losses (I told him it didn't we would always remember!). In fact weren't you wearing those baby blue boat looking shoes?

    Sometimes in our own personal failures we have an amazing impact on those around us just because we tried.

  2. Our most valuable lessons often come from the most unexpected sources -- and memories.

    And, of course, you had two pushy big brothers!

  3. I like this story - It's such a good reminder to leave it all on the field of battle.

  4. Great post. Accepting defeat while trying your best is never really loss. This was such a good reminder.

    Loved the picture of your little self! So cute.

  5. This makes me think of bungee cord racing!!! I will never forget your "game face." Ha! And I believe you when you say you've only given up once.

  6. love this story. when are you going to post something about your Santa mug collection? the holidays are approaching...