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A recent visit with my 95-year-old mom, a resident of a nursing home for the past 7 years or so, is always a delight for me. Especially when she looks back and says things her mom said to her.
When I walked in, she asked if I liked her haircut and new perm job. Of course I did!
She then spoke in German, which was part of her family’s vernacular while growing up. Then she asked if I understood what she said. I told her it was something about her hair.
Good guess! Yes, she said it was something her mother always said, when one of her 11 siblings complained about getting ready for church or on a date. It translated to, “If you want to look pretty, you have to suffer.”
As I left, the thought stuck in my head and I recalled a slogan from Wigwam’s Ultimax Sock, when it was introduced at the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon Championships in 1995, in Kona. It went something like this: “Some run to compete, some because it’s so darn comfortable.”As a competitive athlete for over three decades, I realized that I compete for other reasons. On the other hand, I really like feeling comfortable while competing. I know my feet have always carried me through my competitions for other reasons than comfort, but without the comfort, my performances would surely have suffered.
What the slogan was trying to get across was whether you are a competitive athlete or a weekend warrior, it is important to feel good about what you have on your feet.
Because I put my feet through more than most athletes, I know without that comfort factor, I would not have reached many of the finish lines I had in sight. Comfort can also mean no blisters, no bunching up in the shoes and no slipping down the ankles.
Since I began testing Ultimax in the mid 1990s, then under the project name of “Absolute”, I have experienced few blisters. In fact, I would have to look through my log books to see if I commented on getting a blister in the past 10 years, other than the one I got this year, while running one night, in a 448-mile race from Turin to Rome, in ankle deep water for 5 hours. That is a long time, with thousands of miles and under many conditions, where most got blisters.
In most cases, getting a blister in a race can result in poor performance or even the dreaded DNF (Did Not Finish). With any Wigwam sock I have worn, blisters have not been a concern and with the few I have gotten, the conditions just softened my feet and made them susceptible. Yet, unlike my mom’s saying, I did not suffer and still looked pretty (good).
Certain factors that appear before us and later put together can some times make for an interesting story or comparison.
The weekend before my daily visit with mom, I was in St. Louis for USA Track and Field’s annual meeting. Prior to the meeting I had free time and met with Bob Keppel, a high school classmate living in the area. Then following the meeting my nephew Kevin Pirrung from O’Fallon, just outside of the city, picked me up and took me to visit with his family.
On the way to the Interstate 70 on ramp, I saw 2 runners approaching, recognized one and told Kevin to get in the next lane. Too late, he hit a huge puddle and it drenched the runners on the sidewalk, as they tried to avoid the splash.
When I look back and put the German translation and the Wigwam slogan together, I knew it was very difficult for these two unsuspecting runners to look pretty, feel comfortable and I’m sure they suffered a bit, with the water that doused them, in the cold temperatures that day.
The runner I recognized was installed in USA Track and Field’s National Hall of Fame the night before and gave an eloquent and inspirational acceptance speech. He actually had been elected the year prior, but deferred his induction a year, because he lived only 25 miles away from this year’s event and it would allow more of his family to attend.
Craig Virgin, from Lebanon, IL, had his story told through a video presentation, prior to his turn at the lectern. We learned of a farm boy, suffering from a genetic urological disorder, on antibiotics for nearly 6-years to keep him alive, and how he became, in his own words, “A white Kenyan” winning back-to-back cross-country World Championships, three-time Olympic Games qualifier, 1976 NCAA CC Champion and more.
I had never seen Craig, even when he was performing, look anything more than the All-American he was. Somehow, seeing him drenched, made me realize it isn’t about looking good or feeling good, it is all about being good. Whether you are, or it is, does not make a difference, as sometimes it just isn’t pretty.
Accomplishing what we set out to do, is what we should all strive and whatever else is associated with that, can only be judged by others. Look pretty, suffer, but accomplish.
See you in a few miles….roy