From the FanPosts. -- TZ
In the middle of the 1972 Olympic 10,000 meter final, Lasse Virén fell.
Virén had been in the middle of the pack, quietly biding his time and energy in the race up to that point, which was on pace for a world record through 4,000 meters. But then at about 12 minutes and 30 seconds into the race, Virén tripped, stumbling to the infield with Tunisia's Mohammed Gammoudi getting tangled up as well.
But Virén gathered himself quickly, then 20 meters or so behind the rest of the pack. In an absolutely stunning testament of his internal fortitude and physical conditioning, Virén recovered his lost time and deficit about 2,000 meters later, taking the lead and holding off Belgium's Emiel Puttemans in the final 200 meters to set the world record at the time.
Virén's performance has always stuck with me since I saw tape of it when I was a freshman in high school during our cross country team's summer training camp.
Falling can be the easiest of downfalls for a runner. In track events and cross country, it's an ever-present concern, with everyone sprinting and jostling for prime position in extremely close quarters with spikes flailing.
It's not the physical part of the tumble that hurts. Adrenaline can easily blind a runner from such pain. Most of my friends from cross country and track and I, as well, had been ‘spiked' at some point, catching accidental spikes on our heels or ankles from competitors. The physical effect of a sharp metal gashing didn't come until after the race.
Rather, it's the impact on the mind where the fall hurts most. It can either be extra motivation to shift into the next gear, like Virén in the 1972 Olympics, or it can be the nail in the subconscious coffin, sealing you into accepting defeat.
Right now for me, I've fallen.
After running nearly every single day for four years in high school, I fell into the college lifestyle and rarely ran at all. I was more or less burned out and found it enjoyable to run only when I wanted jog a few miles.
But more than that, it was sloth and inertia. I would go through phases of running a few days a week only to time after time regress back into a mostly physically apathetic lifestyle. I've lost much of my endurance and my core strength.
After coming so close to running a marathon during my senior year of high school, I'm not sure how long it would take me to get back to where I once was. I know I can get back in shape to achieve that goal, but it all comes down to intrinsic resilience.
For now, I'm getting up for it once again, jogging four miles as often as my schedule permits. Gradually I'll build up for more mileage and eventually even try to run my own workouts.
I can't wait to be back in a race. I missed the burning in my legs. The runner's high. The rhythmic patter of my feet on the asphalt, trail or track.
I even missed the anxious fear and threat of falling.
Getting up after falling is easy. But how you react after that shouldn't be.