As a proud mom of a young teenage boy, I recently experienced my first middle school track meet… and it was something to behold.
It was bone-chilling cold (I live in Idaho) and complete chaos. With almost 500 seventh and eighth graders bursting with excitement to race their first races I just kept thinking “this has got to be what herding cats is like”.
I’m new to the whole “track mom” thing, but I found all the kids stretching and warming up to be pretty fun. And then…. Everything changed. They brought out the hurdles.
A couple things that are important to understand about middle school track:
#1 – Kids pick their own events, so everyone running hurdles had personally chosen to do so (proof that teenage brains are not fully developed).
#2 – When your 12, 13 & 14 years old, Hurdles are TALL & HARD.
I literally sat with my mouth wide open as the races began. There were almost 60 kids signed up to do hurdles and at least half of them needed varying degrees of first-aid by the time they were done. The hurdle biffs were absolutely painful to watch. I literally cringed each time an attempt to leave the ground was made. The struggles of the hurdlers varied, some just caught the tip of their toe and stumbled, some lost momentum as the race progressed and just couldn’t quite clear the bar, some fell gently while others full-out face planted and skidded down the track, leaving bruised and bloodied.
I was completely in awe of this event. Some runners bounced right up and kept going, some just walked off the track, some drug themselves back on their feet determined to finish despite the tears pouring down their cheeks. One of my favorites was a boy who looked quite athletic, but just couldn’t get his rhythm. He literally stepped on every single hurdle. He never fell, but he also never actually cleared a single hurdle. By the end of the race he just kicked (and cursed) the obstacles.
Why? Why would anybody “choose” hurdles? This awful image and that question has stayed with me for weeks now. And then, I went to the next track meet. Guess what? There were not nearly as many kids competing in the hurdles this time. Many of those racers who had fallen last time had simply quit.
But, I recognized several others who I knew had previously fallen and they were back at the starting line. More racers cleared their hurdles this time. They had improved. Some failed to complete the race blood-free, but I saw sheer determination on many faces this time.
They knew the consequences of not clearing the hurdle. They had already fallen. They had also already risen.
So, why would anybody “choose” hurdles? Maybe, because hurdles (obstacles) make us stronger. Maybe, because they make us better. Maybe, because when we pick our battered selves back up we are ahead of our competitors in so many ways.
Maybe, because how we handle those hurdles separate the true winners from the losers.
“It’s not how many times you fall, but how many times you get up.”
I think this belief is inherent in successful people. Whether it is a 13-year old trying to jump high enough in front of his friends or an entrepreneur building a business from scratch, it is how we handle the hurdles that will ultimately define us.