What a great read. My favorite part:
Aside from his ability to accelerate off of almost any pace, the key to Wottle's success was similar to many great athletes: He hated to lose. Sink had the same fire. He had tripped and fallen in a mile race, and we rushed over to him to help him up and make sure he wasn't hurt. Sink proceeded to tear off his shoes and hurl them into the infield and curse himself for being tripped. Then he returned shortly after and took out his anger on the field in a 3-mile, cruising to an easy victory.
What seriously competitive runner hasn't experienced that feeling, that hatred of losing, that rage at a tactical error during a race? To me, this is the true spirit of a competitor. Sure, you can lose gracefully but graciously congratulating your opponent isn't the same as not having that absolute hatred of not living up to your own standards.
I remember the Conference Championship my junior year of high school. Sure, I wasn't running for the win but I was running for All-Conference and for a team title. I completely blew it and, after the race, I lost my cool I was so mad at myself. I could have outwardly handled myself better but it was that fire, that absolute disgust with my performance, that absolute determination to avenge that run eating away at me for just over a week that got me out there at the Sectional meet ready to avenge my bad race. I had what I would still rank as one of the best races of my life, finished in the top 10 against all the teams in the conference as well as additional very strong teams after barely cracking the top 20 a week earlier, and helped my team qualify for State.
When I think back on my running life, it's not always the case but many of the best races of my life came immediately after the worst races of my life. It's that hatred of losing, of not living up to my own expectations, that forced me to push myself in that next event to doing something that would even surprise myself in some cases.
I have a feeling a lot of us have experienced that hatred described in the article. It may not have taken us to the level Wottle, Sink, and their teammates but that is the internal drive that takes us to the pinnacle of personal success. It's also something that, while it still exists, seems to have become increasingly more rare over the past decades.