I watched a man struggle while running up a hill near my home this morning. It was a little before 5am, and completely dark aside from the glow of a few streetlights. October in Southern California provides its residents with absolutely ZERO excuses to get out there and enjoy the landscape.
I wasn’t overly psyched about the 4 miler in front of me…until I saw this man. I really just wanted to turn around and go home and enjoy my first cup of coffee….and then I saw this man. I was lacking the desire necessary to get the work done….when I came across this man.
He was breathing heavy. He stopped a number of times and placed his hands on his knees to try to get some air in his lungs. It was clear: he was NOT used to this. But each time he stopped, he caught his breath, and then he started up again.
His face was as red as a firetruck. His shirt didn’t fit him too well. His running shoes were high tops – so it was clear that he didn’t give crap how he looked while putting in the work. Fashion was NOT important – his goal was. That was the first sign that this dude didn’t look like some seasoned athlete – but he was acting like one, and that’s all that mattered.
He had some grey hair protruding from the sides of his Anaheim Angels baseball cap. He wasn’t youthful – but youth is wasted on the young. His legs weren’t responding like they would have 20-30 years ago, of this I’m sure. But he was working with what he had, with the singular focus of improving his current state. No excuses. There’s the second sign of a real athlete.
He wore a Timex Ironman watch – a real old school piece that immediately demands respect. It was weathered. It definitely saw some battles with the road in years past. No GPS. No syncing to his phone. No counting the number of steps, and no tracking his heart rate. He was simply training by FEEL. He knew he was working his ass off, he didn’t need Siri to affirm that for him. Yet another sign of a real athlete.
I watched him slowly but surely tackle this rather long, unforgiving hill (my new Mt. Sonofabitch). When he reached the top, he threw his arms up in the air like Rocky. As he tried to catch his breath one more time, I slowly waddled by him and said in a rather loud voice “DUDE, YOU ARE CRUSHING IT!”
I had no idea if he even heard my heavily accented voice as I meandered by…but as I retraced my route about 30 minutes later in order to return home after logging 3.5 miles, I began the relaxing cool-down portion of my session by starting my my final waddled down Mt. Sonofabitch. Not even 1/4 of a mile down the hill, and looked across the street…and there was that dude, still working the hill. Still sweating his ass off. Still finding it hard to breathe. And still not quitting.
Now that’s a damn athlete.