Two days ago, I watched an American woman win Boston for the first time in 33 years.
I watched the live-stream during class. I usually am always attentive in class, but historical moments, like Desiree Linden winning Boston, call for temporary lapses in normality.
I could watch that race 100 times more.
I want to be like Des. I want to push on and persist in the rain, the cold and the snow. I want to grit my teeth over the hills. I want to enjoy the peaks and get through the valleys. I want to die a thousand deaths but keep fighting strong. I want to cross the finish line at the end of the day and collapse in exhaustion, elation, and joy. I want to have grit that overlooks my present pain and circumstances.
I want to dance through the rain and have grit like Des.
That’s what Des did. In her own way, she danced.
That’s something I’m learning to do right now– dance. Both literally and figuratively. I think everyone who knows me knows that I’m one of the worlds worst dancers. My arms and my legs don’t move in sync unless it’s in an athletic setting like running, basketball, or soccer.
But in a more figurative sense, I’m learning to press through trials and grit my teeth, knowing there is meaning and purpose behind them. A few weeks ago, I got an in-season-injury for the first time in my entire 11 years of being a track athlete. I was doing a pre-race warm up drill that I’ve done thousands of times before, and I came down on my knee the wrong way. Before I got imaging, my knee was presenting as an injury that was much more serious than what the MRI results wound up showing.
Turns out, I just sprained my MCL (I didn’t even know that was a thing) and I was only out for a couple weeks. I maintained fitness in the pool and I’m back to working out on the ground already. I got lucky. Really lucky.
While the time I was sidelined was short-lived, I still spent every single one of those days staring at the black stripe on the bottom of the pool for two hours straight, wishing that I was anywhere else. I spent the time in my day that I wasn’t cross training feeling bad that I felt bad about being injured. At some point along the line, I realized that being mad about the situation I was in was only inhibiting my ability to be the best I could be on a daily basis. If I couldn’t be my best, both physically and mentally, during times of rain, then how could I expect to be ready for tough races?
I didn’t have to like the fact that I was in the pool, but I did have to embrace it.
I had to dance even though it was raining. I had to find joy even through my frustrations, because finding joy in the rain and continuing to dance made me tougher.
My coach is a big believer in this. One of his fundamental values is toughness. Rob told me that when he was a kid, he would fill two buckets with heavy rocks and see how far he could carry the buckets without stopping. He also used to drink raw eggs just so that he could be tough like Rocky. It must have worked, because he eventually ran 3:34 in the 1500.
I look up to my coach a lot. He, like Des, has a relentless ability to press on even in the midst of tough conditions. He has the figurative part of dancing in the rain down. He once told me that the reason he got emotional when he stood on the podium wasn’t because of how awesome making a podium was, it was due to the amount of toughness and grit he had to achieve to get to that position.
I could be off base, but I imagine that’s part of the same reason Des was emotional on Monday. Her relentless ability to dance in the rain inspires me.
In addition to the small injury hiccup recently, the past 10 months required more dancing in the rain than I ever thought running would ask of. Between running and life, I’ve had to re-calibrate my emotions on more than one occasion. I’ve learned that, to a certain extent, running is a lot less about who is more talented and a lot more about who can manage their emotions and fight harder.
The funny thing is that I’m really excited about the rain I’ve had to dance through this year. Some of it was minor, like being injured for a couple weeks. And some of it was a little bit more serious. Regardless, it’s all made me tougher.
I know that God gives me the strength to fight, be tough and be gritty no matter how minor or serious the storm. And I believe that He truly has an intentional purpose behind every moment I have to learn to dance through.
I’m still here. I’m still willing to bet on myself. I’m still dancing. In Desi’s words, I have to keep showing up, even if it takes me 13 years.
I know there is joy in the rain, and because of that, I am learning to dance.