Dave Griffin on Running – The Carroll County Times – Sunday, March 18, 2012
Virtues are not hereditary. You aren’t born with any. A virtue is acquired by consistently choosing to apply it, until by habit it becomes a part of you.
Faith, or trusting in a set of beliefs, may be at the root of all other virtues. Unless you believe that there is some greater purpose in your own life and in how your life influences the lives of others, virtues have little value.
But with faith, it is our virtues that align our actions with our purpose. No matter what role we play - athlete, professional, parent - our virtues will determine how we act and react in a given situation. A courteous person will always show courtesy.
It may sound funny to say that I’ve learned this through running or perhaps more accurately, by looking at life through a runner’s eyes. Running added routine to my life. Even the exercise itself is repetitive, and over time the habitual activity formed my perspective.
The first virtue I gained from running was self-confidence, as what seemed impossible in the beginning became achievable over time. The daily accomplishment built self-esteem, allowing me to face life with more certainty and courage.
I still remember the first race I won. It was a high school cross country race when I was a sophomore at South Carroll. I was inexperienced, to say the least, and I didn’t run wisely.
In the final mile I struggled, and I could hear cheers for the runner who was chasing me. We ran through a gate and onto a track, where I somehow managed to hang on to the finish line.
By realizing that I had potential, I developed the ability to endure adversity. The long miles and the hard workouts didn’t seem as bad because I accepted the sacrifice in order to feed my ambition.
The fortitude led to diligence, as months became years of focused effort. Success built upon success, and I began to recognize the potential I could only dreamed about before. As the goals became bigger my determination, my firmness of purpose, grew.
By the end of my competitive years I had discipline. The trait of being under control allowed me to see poor conditions as simple inconvenience. I was able to accept the uncertainty of circumstance and rely on my own consistency.
Some might think that the hard work isn’t worth it. Everything today seems to be built around convenience. People want instant gratification. They want to delegate responsibility.
I’ve tried for years to understand why this is so because my own mind reasons differently. Such a life can only lead to discontent because, eventually, the only thing we have of any value is our own character.
In any race, the gap in time between the first and the last runner is large. But there is no such gap in the qualities required to reach the finish line. And it is the virtues we gain, not our finishing time, that helps us accomplish greater things.