13: This Is How We Practice Not Quitting

13: This Is How We Practice Not Quitting

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Dad

This Is How We Practice Not Quitting

Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.

~Newt Gingrich

I’ll never forget the day my then fifty-something professional sports executive dad became a marathon runner. After he finished his first race, the Disney Marathon in January of 1995, I watched him walk through our front door limping, battered, and bruised. He looked like he had been in hand-to-hand combat and was dragging home from the war. I remember wondering what in the world was fun about that. But a few years later when I watched him cross the finish line at the 1997 Chicago Marathon, I caught the bug. Whatever it was that made him want to do this, the satisfaction I saw on his face told me I wanted it too. So I started training for my first marathon. To date, I’ve run in nine of these epic events, seven of them right alongside my dad.

The first time we did the Boston Marathon together, I had trained hard for months, and Dad and I were both pumped. The first half of the race flew by, and I was on fire. I had energy like a madwoman, but Dad was struggling . . . so I did my best to keep him going. Kind of like Frodo and Sam, you know? Though the plan had been to stay together, Dad kept saying, “Go! Get a better time if you can . . . go ahead!” I debated it, but decided to stay with him. After mile thirteen, we stopped for a bathroom break — and that’s when I cramped up really bad. Dad came to life after that, so for the second half of the race, he had to “carry” me! Miles thirteen through twenty-six were brutal, and sometime during mile twenty-one, as we were making our trek up the aptly-named “Heartbreak Hill,” in agony and almost in tears, I looked up at Dad and cried, “Why in the world are we doing this?”

“People ask me that all the time,” Dad said, “but you know why I do marathons? Because this is how I practice not quitting.”

Wow! What a great perspective. Needless to say, it gave me a jolt of energy and we finished the race with smiles on our faces, hand-in-hand as we crossed the finish line.

I have reminded myself of that statement many times since that day and it has “carried” me through many situations. I still don’t know what’s fun about marathons, but I know the immense sense of satisfaction I feel after running one. It’s a great “I did it!” moment. One more time, I forced my body to keep going long past the moment it wanted to quit.

Rich DeVos, cofounder of Amway and a family friend, likes to say that perseverance is stubbornness with a purpose. I think that is a terrific quote, and it reminds me that if you quit once, it makes it easier to quit the next time. After you start quitting, it’s hard to put the brakes on.

I hear people say all the time, “Oh, I could never do a marathon!” And you know what my response is? “Sure you could! Most of it is in your mind.” People look at me like I’m crazy, but trust me, marathons are as much a mental challenge as they are physical. Basically, from the moment you start, your body wants to stop. But then your powerful mind kicks in and says, “You started this thing . . . you’re gonna finish it!” There really is nothing like that feeling — the rush — of knowing you’ve just beaten those twenty-six miles.

I don’t have the kind of dad who will sit on the porch and drink beer with you. My dad is the one challenging you to keep up with him in a marathon. How cool is that? Because of his “not quitting” attitude, he’s inspired me to take up the challenge too.

Today, whether it’s running a marathon with Dad or finding my way in the country music world, I know I may not be the best, but I can guarantee you this: I will work the hardest, I will persevere the longest, and I will strive for lasting quality in my field, no matter what. Thanks, Dad, for one of the most powerful lessons I have ever taken away from you.

~Karyn Williams

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