Go The Distance

My godson Jakobh Coleman taught me an important lesson before he was 8 years old.
 
Jakobh wanted to be a runner. It was a sport he enjoyed because he liked competing against himself. He liked the feel of the pavement and he liked the solitude. He got so confident in his ability to run that he decided he wanted to run in a race that was being held at the high school in Refugio, over 30 miles away from his home in Beeville TX. It was summer — the weather was very hot and very sunny.
 
His mother and I drove him over to the high school where all the other kids were gathering at the track for this race. Jakobh was the youngest one there; that didn’t bother him. He was an only child until he was 5, so he was used to being the youngest person in the room. He always believed that was he the equal of anyone he was with.
 
Jakobh had never run a race before; he had never competed against anyone but himself.
 
As the race progressed, all the other kids completed their laps around the track and ran their mile. Some blew right through it, others paced themselves and others struggled. At the end of about 30 minutes, everyone was finished –except for Jakobh. He still had two-thirds of his final lap to go.
 
There’s nothing like the sight of a determined 7-year-old trying to keep it together in the face of what he feels is utter defeat. Jakobh had gotten his clock cleaned this morning; he’d been bested by kids twice his age and he was surprised. All of this was all over his face as he continued to run around the track.
 
His mother, Maggie, and I had been cheering him on from the sidelines throughout the race. We kept it up now without a care for how silly we looked shouting positive messages to this kid who clearly should have waited until he was bigger to get in this race. There was no one else on the track for us at that moment. Nothing mattered more than our connection to this kid and his connection to himself. In the midst of all of our cheering, Jakobh never took his eyes from the track.
 
He ran, all alone, all the way around the track, with his head up and his gaze focused on the finish line.
 
That day is as clear for me now, over 20 years later, as it was the day it happened. Every time I think  I’m getting too far behind my goals, or  that I’m just not making progress fast enough, I think about that running boy. I think about his courage, his faith in himself and his stamina in the heat of that South Texas day. I remember what made him a winner that day was the fact that he stayed the course; he trusted himself to go the distance.
 
The lesson he taught me is that you can only win if you stay in the race.

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