Olympians are Awesome and so are You

pole vaultingMy friend Stacy McMillan sent this email to a few friends and I was so inspired, I asked her if I could share it on our blog… and she said "Yes!" Stacy is one of those people who inspires others just by being around… her positive energy is infectious and her capacity to hold space and love others is truly admirable. She is definitely a champion in my book. I really hope you enjoy Stacy's blog and remember just what a champion you are!  

I just wanted to share that I had an amazing Friday night and Saturday in corn country. The Iowa weather finally pushed past 34 degrees for the first time since November, reaching the 60’s all day this weekend. Just in time for an awesome outdoor event.

I haven't had enough leisure in my life lately, so I made some plans to have big fun! I attended the Drake Relays, a famous four-day track and field competition in Des Moines, with a sold-out crowd of 14,500 people.. There were several Olympians from multiple countries competing, thus several languages were spoken. The atmosphere in the stands was super-supportive and uplifting. I had an assigned seat but never sat in it; rather, I tootled around and sat in several places to see the action from many angles. Event staff encouraged this, saying, “Young lady, why don't you just find a seat where's there's an open space. If somebody shows up, just find another open seat."

I sat among competitors and coaches alike, and watched and listened to families and coaches give feedback to competitors from the stands. It is really amazing to sit among champions. Their bodies are insane. They are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and smile a lot. They love to inspire the crowd with their enthusiasm.

I saw a few injuries; people colliding into each other while trying to get ahead or falling over hurdles, running smack into the mat during the high jump, or twisting a knee during the triple jump. Nevertheless, these sorts of accidents are not as severe as those you’ll see in contact sports. Track and field is a gentler sport, and more interactive.

Normally, when I sit in the stands, the competitors ignore the crowd the whole time. It was a new experience for this spectator to be encouraged to cheer and clap by various teammates in the competition; the pole vaulters and long jumpers even waited until the crowd was in a clapping rhythm before running toward their targets.

It was super cool to be in an environment where sportsman/woman-like conduct carried the day, where passion was palpable, where victory was won or lost by just a second or an inch. And, go figure, boo-ing was not practiced.

The field event competitors were so disciplined and focused. They were able to repeat their event several times in order to achieve a personal best, and each time had a totally different outcome: small gain, small loss, big improvement, or sometimes attempts were disqualified because a rule was broken. Sometimes the outcome was desired, sometimes not.

Try, fail, try, fail, try, victory, try fail, repeat! And they failed to reach the desired outcome way more times than they succeeded. But whatever the result, at the end of the event, they stood up, raised their hands and clapped, and thanked the crowd for their support. And the crowd thanked them back.

I haven’t mentioned it yet, but this sporting event features kids as young as fifth grade and up to around 30 years old. One young, budding athlete from a nearby Iowa high school turned to me Friday night and asked, "Did you compete today?" I was speechless for a moment, and then said, "Um, No." What I thought in jest was, "No, sweetheart, I am pushing 40 and recovering from a spine injury, but aren't you adorable for suggesting I'm as youthful-looking and capable as these youngens."

He then said, "Did you used to compete? I run relays" He continued, "Wow, the crowd is so great here... hope you enjoy it!" We parted ways when the fireworks started. Like so many Iowans, this young man was ridiculously fit, fresh-faced, and polite. The Midwest is full of this sort of thing.

So in closing, hanging out with Olympians made me think of my friends and family who are up to great things. You are people reaching new heights in business/work, academia, family, or community service: trying, failing, trying, succeeding, trying again. You may not have a stadium-sized crowd to cheer you on or validate your success (or maybe you do and, if so, send me pictures), but you are still champions in my book. So, Happy Sunday, folks! I wish I could offer you a fireworks display in honor of your courage and conviction, but I can offer an invitation to come see the Drake Relays here with me in Des Moines next April!