A few years ago I raced an Ironman triathlon in St George, Utah. The swim portion was 2.4 miles, the bike leg stretched 112 miles and the run part was a full marathon, 26.2 miles. The course is really hilly and the temperature was over 90 degrees with sharp wind gusts. I finished in 12 hours 58 minutes, number 18 of the 60 guys in my age group. The weekend before I raced a half-Ironman distance race in California, and got seventh of 50 or more in my age group.
At the end of the race in St George, I was recovering and eating a few things, and saw a little kid, about 18 months old. His father had just finished the race, and this toddler was hanging around with his family while his father tried to pull himself together.
I was feeling as though I had pretty good mental discipline and stick-to-it-iveness. I had done two hard, lengthy races in a week’s time. Ironman St. George was especially challenging, given the big hills and 140.6 miles of racecourse. And it was really hot (did I mention that already?) and the wind gusts felt like I was running into a hair dryer.
I thought I had reason to be a little self-congratulatory for racing with determination for nearly 13 hours.
Then I see this little guy, this toddler, this 1.5-year-old, at the race finish.
I watched this little kid trying to walk around on the lawn. He’d take a step or two, fall to the grass, and then get up. He’d take another step, and fall again. Get up, fall down. Get up, try to walk, fall down, and then get back up.
I watched him for ten minutes. He must have fallen and stood back up 100 times.
He never seemed to get discouraged, or irritated, or frustrated, or anything even remotely like that. He just kept getting up and trying to walk, and falling down, and getting up again. He was just so—matter of fact about it.
Whoops, down. No problem, just pop back up and start walking. Down again. Okay, well, better get back up. Down. Up again. Down. Up again.
What determination. It didn’t seem like he was battling. He was just getting back up and up and up and up.
Imagine what we all could do if we had that kind of determination.
He might have fallen down 100 times, but he got up 101 times.
The next time you sense a whiff of discouragement, or want to quit or back off or otherwise toss in the towel, picture this little kid. Take a good look. Feel what it must have felt like for him to be so easily and causally determined to stand. Nobody had to say to him “What’s the alternative? Lay there until the vultures come?” He just did what he needed to do. He got back on his feet.
We all know how to persevere. We’ve known it from a very early age. It’s how we learned to walk.
Thanks to that little boy, whose father had just raced 140.6 miles in infernal heat and wind, and persevered.
That little boy persevered more.