“This is what I need you to do today for practice, “said Father Pat, my high school cross country coach. “I need you to run quarter mile repeats. I need them each run in sixty seconds. You can rest for sixty seconds and then do the next one.”
I hated to ask the next question because no matter what the answer was I wasn’t going to like it.
Before I could protest, he had me at the starting point, and told me to get ready. Father Pat raised his arm and uncovered his digital watch. “Ready…..go.” I took off running the lap around the school. We didn’t have a track so Father Pat had marked off four hundred and forty yards. I had done this routine before but never so many.
As I came around the last turn, I could hear him yell, “46, 47, 48…” I picked up the pace to get to him before he yelled “60!” I knew tardiness could mean extra laps. I touched him right at sixty. He gave me his watch and told me to finish the rest alone and he disappeared in to the school.
A week later, I stood at the starting line of the Michigan state cross country meet, and I remembered that practice. I looked down the line at the other 90 runners and was sure none had gone through the insanity that I had the week before. I felt strong, prepared.
Those 36 laps taught me a lot. I often think of those laps when I am faced with what seems impossible. The impossible, insane challenges in life are what condition us to do the next great thing. Life without challenge is a life without promotion.
After running the first half mile of the race in dead last, I passed eighty eight people over the last two and a half miles. I finished second because of the “36.”