High School Cross-Country Taught Me How To Handle Adversity
By Kenneth Beane
I was a nervous wreck for my first cross country meet. I was wondering what the heck I got myself into. I loved running. I loved running mostly because I wasn’t supposed to be able to run for any distance. Especially as well as I did. I thrived proving the doctors wrong. I carried a chip on my shoulder. But I was a short distance runner. My favorite was the 100 yard dash during track season. After track practice and meets I would go jog some more just for fun.
Somehow I let my coach convince me to run cross country. This is much different than a 100 yard sprint but I was up for the challenge. Sensing my nerves, my coach said to me, “I don’t care how you run. I don’t care if you run like this (running in place), or like this (pretends to run backwards) or if you walk. Just don’t stop.” What he would soon learn about me is I don’t quit. I would crawl over that line if need be.
My life has been a struggle. I’m not saying this for sympathy and I know this isn’t unique. But it is a part of my story. I grew up in the projects in and around Boston. For a period of time as a child we were homeless. I’ve spent many a night on a cold floor in a shelter. Some nights were spent on a park bench. For some time we also lived in a shack (which as an adult I learned we broke into it) that had no electricity or hot water. There my two siblings and I shared a mattress that the springs were poking through.
One of my favorite quotes is, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress” by Fredrick Douglass.
One of my favorite quotes is, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress” by Fredrick Douglass. This might be odd for some to understand, but my struggles made me who I am. I’m an opinionated, socially awkward, stubborn man filled with too much Irish pride who refuses to give up. At 37 years old I still feel like I have to prove those doctors back in 1982 wrong. Maybe it’s petty. But it’s what helps me in my fight against CF.
I’m not here to be anyone’s role model. I don’t want that BS. I’m not your hero. Attention gives me anxiety. Even typing this out is giving me anxiety. But if I can help you out with something, don’t be afraid to struggle. I’m not saying seek it. I hope it doesn’t find you but if it does, remember the words of my coach, “Just don’t stop."
But if I can help you out with something, don’t be afraid to struggle. I’m not saying seek it. I hope it doesn’t find you but if it does, remember the words of my coach, “Just don’t stop."
A trick I learned when I started distance running was to pick out landmarks along the route. The entirety of a race can be overwhelming. But if you break it down into manageable sections it is a lot easier to handle. For instance, I would look ahead and say, “If I can make it to that tree, I’ll keep going” and so on. This is how I handle life, especially when it comes to CF, to this day. Life with a chronic illness can be overwhelming. Some days that overwhelming feeling knocks me down. But I am thankful I have friends in the community I can reach out to who help me get back on course.
Cystic fibrosis is a progressive disease. My track and cross country career is long over. But the fight continues every morning. Some days, weeks, months are harder than others and that’s okay. Some days I “run” ahead. Other days I need to “walk” and rest. But no matter the struggle, I’ll keep pushing forward. One of these days I’ll come to the finish line of my life and I will crawl over that line if need be.
About the Author Ken Beane Jr is a 37 year old adult living with CF in Boston, MA. He is ∆F508 homozygote. His hobbies include photography, going for walks in the city or in nature, sports and using the angry reaction on FB every time someone says they like pineapple on pizza.