We all have piles. Piles of laundry, bills, obligations, yard work, stress, homework and anxiety. You get the idea.
In normal times, itâ€™s hard enough to deal with all those piles. But right nowâ€¦itâ€™s even harder.
I had the good fortune of playing football at Berlin High School for Al Pelligrinelli, a/k/a â€śCoach P,â€ť a Hall of Fame legend in Connecticut. One of Coach Pâ€™s favorite sayings was â€śkeep pushing the pile.â€ť Heâ€™d bark it out to the offensive linemen, cajoling them to push downfield for more yardage. Heâ€™d scream it at the defense to help thwart the opponentâ€™s advance.
Back then that command was quite literal. But Coach Pâ€™s words have always stayed with me.
About five weeks before running the NYC Marathon a few years back, plantar fasciitis hit my right foot hard. I tapered on the training, slept with a night splint, did some physical therapy, taped the foot and showed up in Staten Island ready to run. And run I did, clipping off the first 16 miles and enjoying all that Brooklyn and Queens, and the maniacal fans, had to offer. I cruised over the 59th Street Bridge, looking forward to entering Manhattan and running up First Avenue.
And thenâ€¦ suddenlyâ€¦that evil plantar fasciitis brought me to my knees. First Avenue seemed a long way off. The finish line a painful improbability.
Until â€¦ I saw Coach P. There he was! In my mindâ€™s eye, I could see himâ€¦ leaning over my shoulderâ€¦ right up in my face. I could hear him shouting: â€śFicks, keep pushing the pile!â€ť
I dragged my sorry right foot through the next 10 milesâ€¦ and â€śtriumphantlyâ€ť limped across the finish line in Central Park. Becauseâ€¦ I kept pushing the pile.
I think of my mother, who raised three children. Pushing the pile.
I think of my mother-in-law, who raised six children. Pushing the pile.
I think of my father, who served in the Army Air Forces in Guam during WWII. Pushing the pile.
I think of my father-in-law, who served with the Navy during the same war and fought in the Battle of Luzon. Pushing the pile.
I think of my nephew, a Marine sniper who fought in Iraq. Pushing the pile.
I think of the athletes with disabilities I know accomplishing extraordinary feats. Pushing the pile.
I think of Coach P., who, in the words of Kenny Chesney, was â€śa teacher, a preacher. A mother, a father. A lot less taker than giverâ€¦and constantly making believers outta quitters.â€ť Pushing the pile.
They all helped make me a believer, and to honor their collective legacies, I keep pushing the pile.
So, in these uncharted waters, in these moments when history will be written, whose legacy can you honor?
Who needs your help, your smile, your hand, your words of encouragement? Your service? Your love?
Whatâ€™s your pile, and how can you keep pushing it, now more than ever?
Carl Ficks helps athletes and aspiring athletes set and achieve their goals. He once could not run two miles without stopping, but has since run and cycled thousands of miles and competed in dozens of road and bike races of all shapes, sizes and distances, from three to 100 miles. Carl moved to Berlin in the 4th grade but later ran away to practice law in New Britain for many years. He's also a proud member of The Generale Ameglio Society. When you're ready to get back in the game, go to carlficks.com.