A champion passed away not so long ago.
And I have admired him for as long as I can recall.
He was Muhammad Ali. The Greatest. But he is gone now and only his legacy remains.
No, I am not old enough to have seen all of his accomplishments or his controversies ... not first hand at least. But, I do know all about his victories in the ring. To me, he was the last great boxer. The last master of the sweet science. So quick in his youth. Such power. And so much guile.
He beat the odds and achieved the impossible. Time and time again. Like a champion. At only 22 … still Cassius Clay … he beat Sonny Liston and shocked the world. He did it again when he spoke his mind, stayed true to his beliefs and became Ali. Afterwards, they tried to get in his head when they just couldn't beat him in the ring. Then came the bout with Ernie Terrell. What's my name, Ernie? And hit him again. What's my name? So much skill but such brutality. Along came Frazier. The loss, the win and the Thrilla. Then, he beat Forman. Long after speed and quickness had abandoned him. When only grit and guile remained. The Rope-a-dope. The Rumble. What a match. Champion again.
Yet, even the Greatest was beaten in the end. Only time is undefeated.
So? What does any of this have to do with running? Well, nothing … and everything. The connection isn't so difficult. Ali himself made it easy to explain. He once claimed to have hated every minute of training. Can you imagine? The Greatest hated to train. Yet, he persevered. He continued on saying to himself: "Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion."
How many times have we all wanted to quit? When the training was just too hard. When the miles were too far and pain too much. Did you stop? Or did you push harder and hurt a bit more? Did you go a little further? Just one more step. One last mile. Did you hate it? Did you quit? Or did you decide ... like Ali did ... to suffer now so you can live the rest of your life just a little bit like a champion?
Until next time when … (I tell the story of Larry and the Whale)