Run Through the Tape – A Lesson for Life and COVID-19

My friend Roger was an outstanding sprinter on his high school track team. He ran the anchor leg of the 4 x 400-yard relay team. At one particular track meet, his relay was the last event of the day. If they won the relay, the school would also win the entire meet.

The first three legs of the relay were very close. Roger received the “anchor leg” baton in second place, but was able to sprint past his opponent to a comfortable lead with quite a bit of track left until the finish line. Roger became over-confident and began to coast about twenty yards from the finish line, not realizing that his opponent was gaining fast on him. By the time Roger saw his opponent out of the corner of his eye, it was too late. Roger was edged out at the finish line.

Not only did this cause his relay team to lose that race, but it cost the entire team: they lost the big match by just one point due to his “half measure” effort coasting towards the finish line. Forty years later, Roger still uses the metaphor of being sure that you “run through the tape” to finish strong and at full speed.

The lessons in this for me have several applications. First, what kind of dad, husband, grandpa do I want to be? What kind of example do I want to set for them? How do I want my kids to react when important pressures are present?

Second, I’m also thinking about our current COVID-19 pandemic. Now is not the time to “go half speed.” We all must stay the course and do our part as citizens to stay safe…for our health and the health of others. While it’s easy to point fingers and place blame…that doesn’t solve a problem.

Let’s not ask, “Who’s at fault?” Let’s ask, “Today, what can I do to make this situation better?” And let’s encourage our local, state and national leaders to focus on the best way for society to end this scourge forever, and what is the absolute best thing to do today to make that happen?” Even if that means sacrifice, isolation and hard times today…for sake of the greater good tomorrow. This too shall pass.

How successful would any of us be if we “went half-speed” when it really mattered? Going half speed today will only enflame the problem and cause a longer and greater suffering long-term. As they say in 12-step groups around the world every day, “Half measures avail us nothing!”

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This blog is an edited excerpt from Tender Lions: Building the Vital Relationship Between Father and Son