OpinionClosing Thoughts


The value of a thing is measured by the effort you put into getting it. The diploma is merely the recognition of the effort it took to get there.

In 1973, I was overweight and way out of shape. I was 35 years old and out of breath with even a little bit of exercise. I heard about jogging and thought it might help me. The aerobics revolution was just in its infancy, and I knew virtually nothing about it.

I was working at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, and Bob Forrestal was the head attorney, and in terrific shape. One day we started talking about running and he suggested that I read the book, “Aerobics.” I did, and it got me to started jogging. I became a small part of the running revolution. At first, I jogged 100 yards and stopped, out of breath. Eventually, I was able to run and walk one mile to the community pool in the summer.

To jog properly, I bought a pair of running shoes. I used those shoes for four years, from 1974 through 1977, when I finished my first Peachtree Road Race. I started with those shoes walking a hundred yards and was too tired to continue. Then I tried running a mile in those shoes and never finished the run. Gradually, I started running a mile, then 1.5 miles, then two miles and eventually ran three miles on a regular basis, all with those running shoes.

In 1975, I continued my 2- to 3-mile run, and I heard about the Peachtree Road Race, just then beginning, and ending at Five Points in downtown Atlanta. In late 1976, I decided to train for the 1977 Peachtree Road Race, and those shoes and other shoes, by then, were part of my training three to five times a week. I got stronger over time.

When I decided that I was going to run the 1977 race, I started reading serious books about jogging. I planned the schedule for six months beginning in January and stuck with it. Gradually I got up to five miles, and on the longest run I ran seven miles: up Lavista Road to Northlake, then down Briarcliff Road, then to home. It was invigorating to do it, and I was losing weight all along the way. I started at about 230 pounds and by the Peachtree Road Race I was 182 pounds.

When I finished that race, the 1977 Peachtree Road Race shirt was the best piece of clothing I ever wore. I put it on proudly along with the 2,000 others. Yes, 2,000 runners were the entire group running back then. For several years afterwards, I ran the race and got a shirt to prove it. It was very exciting to run that distance without stopping. The run for the Peachtree Road Race was then quite easy for me, and I made it without stopping.

While I still have these shirts, I can’t wear them. I tried to put one on recently, but I couldn’t get into it. They’re way too small. I think they will only fit one thigh. Even though they’re too small, they represent a symbol of great accomplishment for me, a four-year and beyond graduate degree in commitment, in exercise, in growth, and in determination to succeed.

Of course, for each race, I didn’t jog very fast and finished at the back of the runners, but I didn’t care. I ran the 1977 race start to finish, ran up heartbreak hill at Piedmont Hospital and passed some woman near the finish line, who was a quarter-mile ahead of me.

That 1977 shirt is a testament to going beyond what you think you’re capable of and succeeding. No one knows the memory that’s in that shirt but me, and why should they? It doesn’t matter to them. But for me, it was a part of my life not just for the day I earned it, but for all the years I devoted to getting it. If only I had that commitment on so many other things in my life. Maybe someday soon I’ll be able to put that shirt on again.

The bottom line: The value of a thing is measured by the effort you put into getting it. The diploma is merely the recognition of the effort it took to get there.

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