Why I never made it as a track star: A letter from the editor

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I was in the sixth grade when I ran my first mile. It seemed simple enough— just four laps around the school track. So as I took my place behind the starting line along with thirty other pre-pubescent kids in my P.E. class, I imagined myself being the star athlete, passing the finish line a lap ahead of everyone else, arms raised in victory. Reality wasn’t so kind. And when I said I “ran” my first mile, that was me being charitable.

I did come up first place exactly as I had imagined: cheeks red, breathing heavily, sweat pooling at the back of my neck, people cheering me on. For the first lap. My lungs gave out halfway through the second, and I ended up walking— sometimes pathetically jogging whenever someone passed me so I at least looked like I was trying— the rest of it. Did I finish in fifth place? Sixth? 15th, at least? Nope. Out of the 30 kids in Mr. Jensen’s P.E. class, I finished dead last.

As insignificant as that day was, I feel the mental and physical exertion of running a mile often, even when I’m not actually running. Freshman year of college, for example, is the beginning of what is probably the most important mile of your life. College is a chance to reinvent yourself. A chance to really find your passion. A chance to become an adult, and to start building your professional career. But, like running a mile, it starts out simple and only gets harder, and the desire to give up gets stronger each passing moment. 

During our end of the year team dinner, the last editor of this publication gave us a book: “Grit: The power of passion and perseverance” by Angela Duckworth. The basic premise of the book is in the title itself, but can also be summed up in this quote: “Our potential is one thing. What we do with it is quite another.”

In other words, some people are just naturally talented at certain things; the people who can run six-minute miles, or the five year-old piano prodigies at Carnegie Hall, or that one guy who can solve a rubix cube with his feet in 25 seconds. But what’s more important and even rarer than talent is grit. A trait as elusive as Gatsby’s green light, grit is what makes a select few humans seem superhuman. It’s what makes you want to practice endless hours a week, and the reason many people can be star athletes in school, but a Katie Ledecky only comes around once in a lifetime.

When asked about The Wire, my knee-jerk response is to say that it is the publication for Cal Poly’s Women in Business Association. While we are promoted on WIB’s channels, our stories go beyond the club. If you take a look at our marketing material, either on our Facebook page or on posters and business cards around campus, you’ll find a collage made up of some of the most successful women in history. Successful in their own ways, but they all share a common characteristic: grit. How did female activists like Kamala Harris get to where they are today? What adversities are women facing in the workforce, and what are they doing to overcome them? On a more localized level, how are gritty professors and students making strides to create a more diverse, inclusive community? Grit is still a vastly understudied concept, and this year, our goal is to expand our study of grit to women in other fields, such as political science and STEM. Two of our contributors, business administration junior Aliyah Purnell and English junior Natalie Truong, are currently studying abroad and will be writing about, among other things, the gritty women they meet on their travels.

As for me, I’m still not good at running, and I don’t like running at the gym unless I’m with someone else. Whenever my lungs are about to explode and my legs feel like they’re about to give out from under me, I glance at my partner’s distance and average mile time, grit my teeth together, and push myself harder. I hope The Wire becomes that person for you, the one who helps you build your own grit.

I don’t have the natural athletic ability to run a six minute mile, but I’d like to think that if I had been grittier back then, I could’ve made it as a track star.

Well, a middle school track star at least.  

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