For those who have never heard of the name Derek Redmond before, I am going to to tell you his story as many before me have.
The year was 1992. It was the Olympics games in Barcelona. The event was the 400 meter sprint semi-finals. Derek Redmond lined up at the starting line, along with sprinters from seven other nations.
Having already been the world champion in several world competitions, he was no stranger to victory. For Redmond though, his former glory came at a steep price. In the 4 years leading up to Barcelona, he underwent eight surgeries for injuries sustained in the sport. Having come back from a broken body time and time again, Derek Redmond was no stranger to the pain and agony of injury. But to a champion in anything, the hunger to win never wavers. The announcers had touted him as a favorite, despite the stiff competition. Having posted the best times in the preliminaries and winning the quarterfinals, he was one step closer to reclaiming the title of champion. With the world watching, the gun goes off.
All sprinters bolted out of the starting line- They were not merely there to challenge each other, but to take on history itself. The 400 meters sprint is not a straight forward event. It takes patience just as much as endurance. One wrong turn can make the difference between capturing glory and tasting defeat. Redmond, undoubtedly, had no desire for the latter. But with roughly 100 meters to go in the race, Derek felt a pop in his leg. He took a few more strides, and then collapsed in pain. His dream of capturing gold had come to a crashing halt. On the open field the onlookers saw a man kneeling, almost as if in prayer.
Derek Redmond, who poured his dreams and hopes into preparing for this day, was now the lone soul with a broken hamstring stranded between the start and finish lines. The truth was hard to swallow, but in truth probably no one understood it better than Redmond himself. Fate had swept the feet out from under him. There was no longer any possibility of finishing in the top four in order to advance to the medals race, an impossibility anyway given his torn hamstring. Undoubtedly, the logical thing for Redmond to do next was to wait for the medical team to arrive and be taken off on a stretcher.
Just stay there. Wait for the medics. Just stay there. Wait for the medics.
But to the amazement of everyone, Redmond struggled to his feet. He began to jog slowly, and gained momentum with each stride.
Derek’s father came down from the stands and ran alongside Derek. As Redmond later recalled:
“The old man put his arms around me and said, ‘Look, you don’t need to do this. You can stop now, you haven’t got nothing to prove.’ And I said, ‘Oh, I have — now get me back into Lane 5. I want to finish.’”
Credits to The Official Olympic YouTube channel
So they did, father and son, to the standing ovation of approximately 65,000 onlookers, for the most meaningful meaningless finish.
This is Redmond’s story. It is regarded today as one of the most inspiring sports tales of our time. It has been written about over and over again and read millions of times. Why?
The message that I chose to gain from it is simple: Never stop moving forward because you incur hardship.
In life, things are going to inevitably happen that are outside of our control.
You may have the best tools, habits, and discipline, but sometimes something comes without anticipation and forces us onto our knees. In this race of life, many of us will stumble along the way. Some of us will be like Derek Redmond, and will be hit with something that forever cripples in one respect or another. It will seem pointless to continue, and our natural instincts will direct us towards curling up into ourselves. But like Redmond, we must fight on, no matter how futile it may seem. The dark times will come, and they may come in a boat load all at once. But that is precisely the time to let your inner light shine brighter.
Instead of withdrawing, step forward.
Instead of letting despair into your heart, become open to love. Use the hardship as an opportunity to improve upon yourself. You may not get the result you started out seeking, but you will gain something unexpected in the process: Another part of the hero you are destined to be.
You may not have the ovation and support of people around you, but remember that neither did Derek Redmond when he knelt in pain. Inspiration has to start from within before it can spread to others.
So whatever hardships you are facing today and are going to face tomorrow, look at it as a challenge. Know that it is within you to make through to the other side, not only alive and kicking, but a better version of yourself altogether.
Bruce Lee, one of my idols, once said: “Pain is a privilege”. I used to doubt that quote, but in time I have come to understand it. You needn’t look for pain and suffering, but rather accept the vulnerability which comes from choosing your own path. Following your heart may mean injuring it from time to time. However, as long as you don’t actually have a ruptured ventricle or valve, you will become stronger, bolder, better.
Bounce-back power is within all of us. Derek Redmond may not have captured Olympic Gold, but his actions have ignited countless spirits after him. He is the legend he is today, not because of the misfortune that fell upon him, but because of what he did in the face of such misfortune. His inner hero reared himself because he chose to take his disaster in stride.
So cheer up.
Dust yourself off.
And keep running.
Until next time.
Your friend and running mate,