To Give Anything Less Than Your Best Is To Sacrifice The Gift
by Janet Barry
Ever since I can remember I’ve been extremely competitive. My parents were both runners and from a very young age I ran in road races, played soccer, cross country skied, hiked, and dabbled in many other sports. My parents never forced me to run or play sports. It was what I loved and what I was very good at. In elementary school, I continuously set the record (and broke my own records) in the mile run, year after year.
I think it was in 6th grade… I remember I was in the back yard running through soccer drills by myself prepping for the season. I stopped, looked into the sky and told myself I’m going to be a professional soccer player-the best in the world-and if that doesn’t work out I’ll be a professional runner. I always had this drive and desire to be the very best I could be. I believe God blessed me with this talent and I was determined to use it to my best ability.
Throughout high school, I narrowed my focus to soccer, cross country skiing, and track. I became a three-time cross country ski state champion, received multiple soccer accolades, and held numerous track records/achievements.
I grew up in a very small town. My high school, although it was public, only had 60 kids in my entire class and we’d all known each other since kindergarten. My mom was my track coach. My high school was very academic and arts focused. I was one of the few who ventured outside of New England and on top of that gained a Division 1 athletic scholarship.
Even though I was trained for shorter distances, my college coach saw huge potential in me due to my fast times. We both had our eyes set on the Olympic trials for me in my senior year in college. Agreeing that I’d need an individualized training plan with minimal miles (unlike other recruits who were used to running 80 miles a week), I signed the contract and was on my way to Charlotte, NC to chase my dreams.
Two months into my freshman year I had two herniated disks and was told by many I’d never be able to run again. I lost reflexes in my left leg and even just walking across campus became extremely painful. The promises of individualized training had flown out the window the first week in. I was thrown into the same training program as every other girl on the team.
However, through prayer and hard work, I ran again, competed again, avoided surgery, and came back even stronger. Throughout college, I had other injuries and it was a constant battle physically and mentally with the stress from my classes, coaches, and training.
Post college I got burned out and was also a bit lost. I had put so much of my life towards this one goal. I had put almost all of my college time into running and racing every weekend, year round. I didn’t explore other avenues or interests much. Thankfully I had no college debt and was able to take a year to do side jobs, rediscover myself and find my interests. I stayed in shape but didn’t compete. I did a lot of promotional modeling work and brand ambassador work.
About a year later I decided to jump in this race called the Spartan race, which was being held at the USA National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, NC. Not knowing what to expect, I jumped in excited to try something different. I hated it. I hated the burpees. I couldn’t do half of the obstacles. I was bleeding. I was cold and upon crossing the finish line I told myself I’d never do this again.
Well… I did another race again. And another. And another. About a year later, I jumped in a competitive heat at a Spartan Beast and placed; winning prize money. That was the first turning point I had. I missed multiple obstacles and crushed the field. I thought, “What if I actually started doing some weights and not just running?”
I began to add in some basic dumbbell work and lunges to my miles. Still burnt out from college, I didn’t do any speed work or step foot on the track.
It wasn’t until about eight months after that race that I decided to enter an elite heat at a Spartan Sprint in DC. To my surprise I placed 5th. Despite struggling with the majority of the obstacles and missing five of them, I still managed to qualify for the world championships! This was the turning point for me. This was the day I decided this was my sport and I was going to begin to train seriously again both running and incorporating more strength work.
It took a bit to build up the upper body and just overall strength and power I needed to conquer the obstacles in this sport but year after year and as the races went by I became stronger and faster.
After last season (2016) I was ranked 12th in the nation and just missed making the Pro Spartan Reebok team.
Entering this season I feel stronger and faster than ever. The first race of the season is always a little nerve wracking! I had to do 90 burpees but made up for it with some fast running and fast bucket and sand bag work.
Sprints do not play to my strengths of endurance, running, and grit so to launch the season with a win by almost two minutes in a sprint for the first race and encountering two new obstacles I have never encountered before was a perfect start to the season!
With USA championship races around the corner, the goal is to compete for a top five slot at each race. As always I will do the very best I am capable of. Over the years that is one thing that I have really learned to excel at and focus on. You cannot control how well others around you can do all you can do is control how well you will do. I also have learned in these races and as in life you never know what new obstacles or terrain will be thrown at you but one thing holds true you have a choice on how you react and how you choose to overcome every obstacle you face.
In addition to using my talent to the best of the ability, I hope to continue to inspire others to be the best they can be and to never let obstacles stand in the way of your dreams and goals.
Never stop pushing. Always strive to be the best version of yourself.
My favorite quote since I was a little girl and still today .."To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift."
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