It has been years since Claire Markwardt experienced a horrific fall in the final stretch of the Ohio state high school cross country championship, and yet, she has only seen the video only once.
Only once has she logged on to YouTube and watched herself fall to the ground as first her left tibia and then her fibula snap in half. Only once has she watched herself crawl the final 45 feet to the finish line, ensuring that she would complete the final race of her high school career.
And even that one time, she had to stop the video at the point where a race official picks her up and carries her to a doctor.
What Markwardt saw in the video might not be visible to the rest of us. She saw a teenage girl who, a year earlier, watched the state meet from the stands and made a personal commitment to run in that race in her senior year. She saw a girl who fulfilled that commitment, and then, with a badly broken leg 45 feet from the finish line, had a choice: Finish, or don’t finish.
To her, it was a no-brainer.
When Markwardt speaks of her memories from the meet, the first thing she mentions is how perfect the entire day was supposed to be. She was to run the biggest race of her life in the morning. As soon as it finished, she was to drive with her dad to her big sisters wedding, where she would be the maid of honor.
At the 1- and 2-mile markers, Markwardt was on a personal-best pace. Then, as she entered the stadium at Columbus’ Scioto Downs, with about 400 meters to go, she heard her left leg crack.
The leg had been sore on and off for the previous two weeks.When she heard the crack, Markwardt thought it was a muscle pull or tear. She thought she could gut it out to the finish line.
There was a runner from a rival school right in front of her. She recounts how she just kept staring at the back of her jersey and pushing to catch her.
But some 200 meters later, Markwardt heard the leg crack again. And again. Then there was a louder crack, and her entire leg gave out. She fell to the ground as onlookers winced at the sound and the sight of what happened.
One of Markwardt’s teammates, unaware of what had happened, encouraged her to get up. She tried, using her right leg. But as soon as she shifted weight to the left, the loudest crack yet came. And her leg gave out again.
At that point, she knew what had happened. She knew her leg was broken pretty badly. And she knew she couldn’t get up again. So she started crawling.
She thought not of her coach, nor her parents, nor anyone else who had encouraged her to never give up, to see things to the finish. Instead, she thought of the countless stories she had heard about runners who collapsed before a race’s end and somehow found the courage to cross that last line. Even if her leg had given out at the 400-meter mark, she said, it wouldn’t have mattered. She was going to finish.
She had come so far. Her team had come so far. All season, they had been working for state, and now they were there. She was almost done, and there was no way she was going to let the team down.
So, she finished the race in a time of 20:24.07, only 18 seconds slower than her personal best (20:06), despite crawling for the last 45 feet.
So often, we have every reason not to finish what we start. No one have would have thought badly of Claire if she had given up after hearing the first unnerving crack and feeling the first piercing pain.
No one would think badly of an entrepreneur throwing in the towel; with an economy like this, it is hard to keep the doors open.
No one would say anything negative about the college student who decides to change their major because the classes required for the degree are just too hard.
Who would say anything about the salesperson who always meets their quota but never goes beyond it; I mean they are meeting quota.
Well, I challenge you to challenge yourself. To commit to whatever it is that you want to do. And commit with everything you have. And when you do, you will find that when you finish, you have accomplished more than you ever thought you could.