Courage has many different faces: it can mean standing for what you believe in without worrying what others may think; or about claiming responsibility for your own actions; admitting your mistakes, without placing blame on others. Courage can also be defined as refusing to quit, even when you are faced with adversity. This latter definition reminded me of a video I had seen several years ago.
Some of you might recall the story of Olympian Derek Redmond. In 1992, he was favored to bring home the Gold Medal in the 400 meter race. Shortly after the race began, Derek felt a searing pain; he had torn his hamstring. He fell down, and at that moment, knew his dream of bringing home a medal were shattered.
What wasn’t shattered was his determination to finish the race. He got up and began limping to the finish line. Suddenly, a man broke through security and came to Derek’s side. It was his dad. When Derek insisted on finishing the race, his father responded; “We’ll finish it together.” He put his arm around his son, and together they slowly headed toward the finish line. Derek completed the race in front of 65.000 cheering fans, rewarding this courageous act with a standing ovation.
I recalled a similar experience I shared with my own father not too long ago, when I attempted to break the Guinness Book World Record by wheeling over 500 miles from Salt Lake City, Utah to Las Vegas, Nevada. I would break the record held by my mentor, Art Berg.
I computed the mileage to be approximately 513 miles. My starting point would be the LDS Temple downtown in Salt Lake City and I would finish at The Mirage in Las Vegas. If I could roll 50 miles per day, I could accomplish my goal in 10 days!
Day One went well – in fact, after I completed my calculated 53/miles per day, I decided to push further and added another twenty-eight miles. This wasn’t going to be as hard as I thought!
However, this victory was short lived.
Day Two presented not only head winds, but a strip where I had to push uphill. Before the race, we had mapped the entire distance, so I was aware of the uphill stretches, but when we had mapped out the route, we were “driving” it. As I soon found out – planning was one thing – doing was something else.
Day Three proved to be even more difficult: Stronger headwinds and two flat tires. My hands were blistered and bloody. Suddenly, this was no longer “fun!”
Day Four was a day I had already predicted would be difficult – Beaver Mountain – a climb of 2900 feet in just four miles. I am slower than a turtle. Getting into Guinness doesn’t seem like such a great idea.
Day Five isn’t much better than the day before. I am discouraged and beaten. My father is with me. I am totally exhausted. At one point, I have to hold on to keep from rolling backwards. My dad is beside me in an instant. “Dad, I can’t do this. I thought I could, but I can’t.” I went on to say “I am finished.”
My dad says: “Chad, don’t think about six more days. Just do one more day. If you feel the same way tomorrow, we’ll go home.” I am too tired to argue, so I agree.
Day Six – I start down the other side of the mountain. Dad is right! Momentum took over – it was my friend. So was gravity! Gravity took me from zero to 39 miles per hour in a flash!
I took it one day at a time. There were days that followed when I still wanted to quit. It was too hot during the day and too cold at night; not to mention millions of Mormon crickets! Oversize cockroaches are moving in waves across the highway. It is so hot that when they hit the pavement, they literally fry. And here I come, racing as fast as I can to escape the stench as well as them flying up in my face as my cycle roles over them. I am only four inches above ground. The layers and layers of dead crickets exceed that height!
Every time I felt like giving up on this journey through the desert, I would break my goal into smaller increments – one day at a time, one hour at a time, one mile marker at a time – and even one yellow stripe on the highway at a time.
In order to survive and succeed, I had to focus on the simple task at hand and do it. It kept me going when I was under a bale of hay – breathe, breathe, breathe. It worked then and it worked when I was attempting to break the world record.
Art Berg said, “Dreams are never destroyed by circumstance. They live or die in your heart. My dreams come true not in spite of my circumstance, but because of it. The miracles of our lives do not come about by grand events, but by little things we have chosen to do. The difficult takes time; the impossible just takes a little longer.”