This is a guest post from Jamie Corey.
Whenever I tell people I’ve been running for nearly 20 years, they’re baffled. If you’re only 26 years old, does that mean you’ve been running your entire life?
It started when I was in first grade. A teacher at my elementary school created a running club, which met for practice every day after school. I told my parents for months that I wanted to join—and badly. My brother and sister were playing baseball then, which requires some running, but it’s not the main point of the sport. They probably saw me following my siblings or even branching out to a sport like karate, but running for a six-year-old hadn’t crossed their minds. Eventually, however, I wore them down and they said yes. So at the age of six, my running career started.
I trained for six weeks before my first race: a cross-country invitational three hours away from home. My dad was tasked with driving me to the race, which at the time seemed like was on the other side of the country (it was a state away).
After several hours of driving, we finally arrived at the meet. When we got there, there were hundreds of other kids of all ages dressed up in uniform.
My age group, the “Pee Wee Division,” was the first group to race. The nerves in my stomach started to flare up as I headed to the start line—the same anxiety I’ve felt for the past 20 years at the start of every race.
The gun went off.
The other kids and I bolted across a wide-open field of grass. My teammates, who had already been training for months before I joined, took off ahead of me. I tried to catch up.
But I didn’t get very far.
Within the first 60 seconds of the race, I plummeted forward onto the grass as I tripped over my shoelaces. The ones I had forgotten to tie.
I burst into tears. I was only six years old at the time—no one had taught me to get back up after a fall like that and I didn’t know what else to do.
My dad rushed over to come get me, but by the time I calmed down and got up, all the other kids were too far away from me. The race was over for me.
Once everyone else had crossed the finish line, I watched all of my teammates get metals and trophies. I held the medal I had received for “trying” in the palm of my hand while watching my teammates take home trophies the size of my legs. Even at six years old, I felt I hadn’t even earned the medal for participating.
We got back in the car and drove the three hours back home. After my tumble, the entire trip seemed a waste of time. I was disappointed in myself and ready to throw in the towel for baseball. Or even karate.
Yet the next day, those sports weren’t on my mind. Instead, I was compelled to run again.
It’s All About How We Get Back Up
Two decades later, I’m still running—despite the dozens of other falls that I’ve collected since.
I tripped over a tree roots during my first run with my high school teammates. I almost landed in a river headfirst during another high school run but was saved by a fence line. I fell on a bee during a warm-up in front of the entire high school. When I looked up, the entire cross-country team hovered over me.
My most recent tumble involved concrete, blood and a few lasting bruises within the first mile of a run. It was a bump. It was a blow. Then I got back up and completed the last 15 miles. If we don’t get back up, how are we ever supposed to reach the finish line?
All seasoned runners have their own collection of falling stories. We’ve all gotten back up though.
“I was training for the ’92 Olympic trials marathon, walking on eggshells while logging big weekly miles and hoping not to cross the line into injury. [I was] eating right, too, which meant regular forays into the fruit and vegetable section of the grocery store. So, of course, while there, I stepped on a grape, slipped and fell on my butt. Before I hit the ground I thought how dumb it would be if a grape knocked me out of the trials.”
-Jim Hage, the only men’s back-to-back Marine Corps Marathon champion, three-time Olympic trials qualifier and a DC legend.
“I had a nasty fall when training—I broke my tooth, cut open my face, got 15 stitches in my nose and around my eye. It was the day after finishing second at the Marine Corps Marathon in 2011. It was also the day after Halloween so I was lucky that I fell right by Georgetown Hospital. After almost blacking out, I got up and thought I could keep going with my training run but quickly realized that I was bleeding so badly that I need to visit the hospital. So I ran to the ER and my wife Jennifer and son Grant came and helped with the stitches. The next day, I had to go to the dentist to get a fake tooth.”
–Michael Wardian, professional ultrarunner and three-time Olympic marathon trials qualifier.
“I trip and fall a lot (A LOT) so they’ve all started to blur together for me. On the bright side, however, I’ve developed cat-like reflexes – I am now known for taking a tumble, then immediately bouncing back up to yell ‘I’M OKAY, Y’ALL’ … even while bleeding profusely from the kneecaps and elbows.”
–Susan Lacke, Ironman athlete and columnist at Triathlete, Competitor, and Women’s Running.
“During a cross country race in torrential rain, I took a sharp turn on a steep downhill and my legs just flew out from underneath me. My right hip hit the ground and skidded through a gravel patch, leaving an awesome scar. I got up and finished the race (2nd!) and couldn’t believe that was actually my 3rd fall during the race.”
–Jason Fitzgerald, USAT-certified coach, 2:39 marathoner, and author of Strength Running.
The exception, of course, is Bart Yasso.
“I have to be honest in 37 years of running I never had a memorable fall. I’ve always run on trails and always had this vision of going down hard on a solo run in the middle of nowhere, never happened.”
–Bart Yasso, Chief Running Officer of Runner’s World, inventor of “Yasso 800s” and two-time marathon champion.
Now it’s your turn. Tell us about your most memorable fall. And how you got back up.
UPDATE: Bart Yasso has reached out via twitter to let us know that even he is not immune to a good tumble: