I know exactly when I knew that I probably wasn’t cut out to be a major league hockey player. Not that I really had thought about it much. When I was a kid, I just loved to play so I just moved from one age group to another, as simple as that.
Of course I had dreams, and of course I would have wanted to be just like Valeri Kharlamov, or Wayne Gretzky, or Hannu Kapanen, or Matti Hagman, or Frank Neal, all my big idols at one point.
And then one summer evening in my mid-teens, I realized that there were people who really just wanted all that more than I did.
It was early August, and off-season was almost over. All those hours at the gym, and all those miles on the jogging path behind us, it was almost time to hit the ice. No more carrying teammates up a flight of stairs.
Not after just one little ten-kilometer test run.
I hate running. I’ve always hated it, because I’m not very good at it.
But when you’re a member of a hockey team, the coaches never come to ask you if you like to run. They tell you to run, and so I found myself at the starting line, dreading every step of the ten kilometers in front me.
I wasn’t the worst runner on my team, but I was nowhere near the top, either. The best guys could run the 10K in 35 minutes, whereas I waddled in about ten minutes after them.
That was also good enough for me. I was happy with that.
That August evening, when I crossed the finish line after an impressive 200-meter long spurt, nobody paid attention to me. The assistant coach did write down my time, but then turned away to attend a bigger problem.
A teammate lay on the ground, unconscious. He had finished his test run a few minutes before me, and had collapsed right after, out of exhaustion. An ambulance arrived a few minutes after me.
I looked at my friend on the ground, the coaches trying to help him come to, and I realized I could probably never push myself to that point. My brain sends quitting signals long before that, and my legs listen.
It’s not easy to push yourself to the limit, no matter what your limit is set at.
The other day, as I was sitting on the porch, sipping my coffee, I saw a lady walk past our house. She was carrying a grocery bag and a purse, and she was huffing and puffing. Right outside our house, she stopped.
She put her purse down, and let go of the grocery bag. She looked left. She looked right, panting. She exhaled. She sighed.
And then she did something very unexpected.
She sat down on the ground. She sat there for a couple of minutes, then stumbled back onto her feet, picked up her purse and her groceries, and continued her walk.
She kept pushing forward.