Hold Fast ~ Poem by E. J. Appleton on Courage & Grit

Hold Fast

When you’re nearly drowned in trouble, and the world is dark as ink;
    When you feel yourself a-sinking ‘neath the strain,
  And you think, “I’ve got to holler ‘Help!'” just take another breath
    And pretend you’ve lost your voice—and can’t complain!
      (That’s the idea!)
    Pretend you’ve lost your voice and can’t complain!

  When the future glowers at you like a threatening thunder cloud,
    Just grit your teeth and bend your head and say:
  “It’s dark and disagreeable and I can’t help feeling blue,
    But there’s coming sure as fate a brighter day!”
      (Say it slowly!)
    “But there’s coming sure as fate, a brighter day!”

  You have bluffed your way through ticklish situations; that I know.
    You are looking back on troubles past and gone;
  Now, turn the tables, and as you have fought and won before,
    Just BLUFF YOURSELF to keep on holding on!
      (Try it once.)
  Just bluff YOURSELF to keep on—holding on.

  Don’t worry if the roseate hues of life are faded out,
    Bend low before the storm and wait awhile.
  The pendulum is bound to swing again and you will find
    That you have not forgotten how to smile.
      (That’s the truth!)
    That you have not forgotten how to smile.

Everard Jack Appleton.

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Chapter 10 ~ Love to Run – Lisa Show Grit

Love to Run

Chapter 10 – Lisa Shows Grit

It wasn’t Lisa’s first race, yet it was different from any race she’d ever run. The runners were super serious. She stared at the runners on either side. They were bouncing on their feet, some were deep breathing, all had their eyes on the starter.
When the starter’s air horn sounded the entire field of runners moved as a great tidal wave swallowing the grassy field. Lisa felt an elbow dig into her right arm, she winced.

She tried to cut a diagonal toward the path, but her way was blocked by all the runners who drew lower numbers. A sense of anger seemed to grow within her. She felt it was unfair having to start with such a disadvantage. She looked toward the path, she couldn’t see the leaders, they were already out ahead and on the path that entered the wooded section of the race route.

If a drone were flying overhead and snapped a series of photos of the runners crossing the grassy field, the photos would appear as a great horde forming a funnel. Lisa now found herself entering into the narrow part of the funnel and the path into the wooded section was only twenty yards ahead. Once Lisa was on the path she quickly passed the slower runners in front of her. She had no idea what place she was in. She knew she had yet to pass any of her teammates. She didn’t feel anxious. She felt strong. She felt confident. She remembered Nicole texting her, telling her to run her best and it’ll take care of the rest. Lisa concentrated on her stride. She counted ten strides and then repeated the count. She paid no attention to who was in front of her. She became aware of people watching the race and cheering the runners on. When they came out of the wooded section, she thought she heard her dad yell, looking good Lisa, looking good. She wasn’t sure. She kept counting strides.

When Lisa saw the first hill looming fifty yards in front of her, she lengthened her stride. Halfway up the hill, she realized all the hill work she did on Mason’s Hill was paying off. As she reached the crest of the hill she sprinted down the hill to where it curved and dipped down into a tunnel that went under a main road. After she cleared the tunnel she settled back into her race pace.

Six hundred yards later, Lisa was on a straight away rising gradually toward the second second hill. It was longer and steeper than the first hill. A group of runners were already half way up the hill, Lisa knew they were the leaders. She could recognize Mia, Marie and Leah by their running form. There was only a mile left to the race after the second hill. That’s what Nicole said. A second group was fifty yards further back. Lisa was running fourth in the third group ten yards behind the second group.

In the back of her mind, she remembered something Nicole told her. “You always give it all you got. When I go to college I’m going to remember that Lisa. Give it all I’ve got all the time. We can always think of each other giving it all we got. It will connect us.”
At the time, Lisa didn’t understand what Nicole meant when she said, giving it all she had would connect them. Lisa was now running as fast as she had ever run in her life, she began to understand what Nicole meant. She sensed Nicole running beside her, encouraging her, telling her to make her proud. Lisa’s legs screamed they couldn’t go any faster. Her mind fought back and demanded her legs move faster. Lisa broke away from the third pack and was now running at the back end of the second pack of eight cross-country runners. She saw three of her teammates bunched together in this pack. Dig deeper, dig deeper. Give it all you’ve got, she shouted to herself over and over again. With ever stride she repeated her mantra.

At the top of the hill, She looked down and saw the white chalk mark gently curve to the left, cross a bridge over a stream and then turn to the road leading to the finish line. She gauged the distance between the lead pack and her at sixty yards. She was now running on the outside of the second pack, moving slowly toward the front. Moments before she crested the hill, she began to sprint.

Lisa’s arms pumped vigorously trying to pull her urge her legs on. Her chest ached, her body begged her to slow down. No, I won’t slow down, I won’t quit, she told herself. She didn’t know how much she had left. She knew her energy level was slipping away. You can dig deeper, you know you can. Dig deeper. Dig deeper. Dig Deeper. Give it all you’ve got said aloud. She stopped looking ahead toward the leaders. Instead, she kept her gaze on the trail five to ten yards in front. Occasionally, she looked up to make sure she stayed on course. She no longer paid attention to who was in front of her. She hurt too bad to think about it.

She heard people screaming. She looked up, the finish line was thirty yards ahead. Lisa could hear footsteps coming quickly behind her. She knew someone was sprinting to catch and pass her. She reached down deeper than she ever had, she raced toward the finish line and crossed the finish line a half a step ahead of the runner coming up on her. Lisa had no idea where she finished. She collapsed into Coach Kappa’s arms.
Coach Kappa said, “You ran a great race. You ran a great race.” Coach Kappa’s arm went around Lisa’s back holding her up. She walked slowly with Lisa until she was sure, Lisa was okay.

Lisa turned at looked at Coach Kappa, “How did I do Coach?”

Coach Kappa looked at her, “You did fine. You showed a lot grit, Lisa. You came in eighth. You ran third for the Jaguars. We placed three in the top ten. We have a good shot at winning because of you.

Chapter 9, Love to Run, “The Medford Invitational”

Chapter 9, Love to Run, “The Medford Invitational”

Ten county high schools were competing in the Medford County invitational. Each year it was held at a different county high school. Coach Kappa chose the fifteen members of the high school varsity team a week earlier. Lisa placed fourth among thirty-five runners in the final practice race to determine members of the high school varsity cross-country team. The first fifteen runners to finish were automatically on the team. The next four runners were alternates. She knew she could have run a faster, but Nicole told her to only run good enough to make the team. She advised Lisa to run with the leaders, but not leave her best race on the course. Lisa wondered about Nicole’s advice, then she decided Nicole was usually right about most things. Lisa ran in a tight pack of Mia, Marie, and Leah. A half mile from the finish, Mia picked up the pace. Marie ran just off Mia’s shoulder. Leah dropped ten yards behind Mia and Marie, and Lisa stayed two strides behind Leah. Mia, Marie, and Leah sprinted the last one hundred yards to the finish. Lisa maintained her stride and finished ten seconds behind the three runners. The four upperclassmen on the team who finished in front of her came over to her and congratulated her on her run. They made her feel part of the team.

The team arrived at the Medford Invitational course an hour before the race. The race started and ended in Deer Park. Coach Kappa explained the course to the team. She told them about the two hills and where they occurred in the course. She also told them Mason’s Hill was a lot steeper and longer than these two hills. After the team meeting, Coach Kappa them stretch and loosen up. When Lisa finished stretching she ran a light half mile with Mia, Marie, and Leah.

Ten minutes before the race, Coach Kappa called the team together. She went over the team strategy. There were more than one hundred runners representing the ten high schools. The winning team would be the one with the lowest score for the first five runners. Coach Kappa told the team it didn’t matter if anyone from the Jaguars won the invitation, what mattered was having two Jaguars in the top ten and three other runners placing in ten through twenty. Coach Kappa was sure that combination would bring home the victory. She said the Jaguars won the Medford invitational four years straight and she wanted to make it five in a row. Lisa knew the first of the four victories began the year Nicole first ran as a freshman for the Jaguars. Lisa was in fifth grade at the time and she still remembered Nicole telling her how she placed second in her first Medford invitational. She won the next three Medford Invitational cross-country meets.

The race started at a large grassy field in Deer Park. The starting line stretched across the grassy field. The runners lined up on the starting line according to a number they randomly received. The number was pinned on their running jersey. Every runner was hoping for a low number because once the runners crossed the grassy field, the race route quickly narrowed into a dirt running path wide enough for only three runners. And, more importantly the lower numbers were closest to where the grassy field narrowed. The runners with the higher numbers had a fifteen yard disadvantage.

Coach Kappa was disappointed with the random drawing. Not one Jaguar was among the first twelve numbers selected. Mia, Marie, and Leah, were placed fifteen, eighteen, and twenty-two respectively. All but one of the remaining members of the team found their places between thirty and sixty. Lisa landed at number one hundred seven, nearly at the end of the starting line. Nicole always talked about how rough some of the starts could be but if you survived the first hundred yards, you had a good chance. Lisa was sure she’d survive the first hundred yards, but she might be two hundred yards behind the leaders by the time she got to the narrow path.

A voice over a loud speaker boomed, “Runners line up according to your number.”
The officials watched as the runners took their places. The starter stood with a megaphone in his hand and spoke to the runners, “I will give two commands, runners ready, and on your mark. The race will start when I signal with the air horn.” The starter blew the air horn once. Several runners started, then embarrassed walked back to the starting line.

The starter said, “The race judges will be watching closely. If they see anyone who tries to trip or knock down or purposely bump someone to gain advantage, the runner will be disqualified.”

The starter walked to the side of the starting line. He placed the megaphone to his mouth and said, Runners ready! On your mark. Lisa’s heart was racing. She’d give it her best shot. Then she heard the starter’s air horn signaling the start of the race.

Turning A Knockdown Into A Triumph

Know anyone who hasn’t been knocked down? Know anyone who hasn’t taken a hard blow? I don’t. Those who reach down and find their inner toughness, get up, shake it off, and become determined to make something good happen from what was bad. They have the courage to transform the moment into a beautiful, creative piece of human courage. You and I have the capacity to be that person. Dig down, dig deep, never quit. Turn the bad moments into good moments. This brief Ted Talk will inspire you to turn tragedy into triumph.

A Story Of Hope and of Courage

Stories of men and women who overcome adversity inspire me. Their stories are a continual reminder to me that no matter how difficult my challenges, how high the mountains appear in front of me, I am strong to fight on. This YouTube video is a bit longer, it is 12 minutes, but it will be worth every minute of your time. Jack Kavanagh is one of my heroes. After you listen to his story, he will be your hero as well.