”It Takes Blood to Persevere.”
The cliche quote, “it’s not how many times you get knocked down that count, it’s how many times you get back up”, is the outline for how to become successful at anything in life. But what happens if there is something that is holding you down that will not let you fully get back up?
I was a junior in high school running times nowhere near the effort I had put in. Cross country ended with a disappointing 16:59.99 5K PR and an 18:44 for close to last at the OHSAA Division III Boardman Regional meet. Frustrated, disappointed, and lost, but I still got back up and wanted to get better. So I thought.
Winter training began and I had big aspirations for the indoor and outdoor track seasons. Easy runs went smoothly, and yet workouts did not. It was a late dark night at the track after school. The plan was to do 6x800m @ 2:40 with 4 minutes rest between each rep.
I could barely even hit 2:55.
Out of breath and defeated, I did not know what was up with me. I continued to train and ran a 3200m at an indoor meet. I ran 11:34. At this point, I knew there was something wrong with me. I went and talked to a sports psychologist and that helped mentally, but physically I was not at my full potential. I talked to my dad and we decided to get my blood tested.
As the outdoor season began I got my blood test results back and learned that I had iron deficiency anemia, my ferritin count was a 4. A healthy ferritin level for an endurance athlete is around 45-55, if not more. Ferritin is the blood protein responsible for holding iron and is the body’s primary source for iron. Without a proper ferritin level, your body can not produce or maintain a healthy amount of red blood cells. Red blood cells help carry oxygen.
Now knowing my problem, I started to take iron supplements to get my ferritin levels to normal.
As I slowly gained a higher ferritin level at the beginning of the outdoor season I just did workouts at meets and had fun. Once we reached the middle of the season I started to take everything a bit more seriously. I ended up dropping my mile PR from a 4:56 to a 4:41 by the end of junior year, and I was feeling on top of the world.
I continued to take my iron and took the momentum from the end of track into my senior year summer training. I had great runs with so many people. Senior year of cross country comes around and I start running at my potential. I ended the year with a 16:26 5K PR and fulfilled my dream of racing at the state cross country meet.
I got knocked down at the state meet and finally was able to fully get back up and chase my aspirations.
The indoor season came around and I decided to take another crack at the 3200 meter-run. A little over eleven months had passed since I had run the 11:34, and I ended up breaking 10 minutes for the first time and ran 9:56 — shout out Vinny Mauri for winning that race. I qualified for the indoor state meet with my team in the 4×800 meter-relay and individually in the 3200 meters. After a huge 6-second PR in my leg of the 4×800 meter relay, I got knocked down again getting nearly last in the 3200m, almost lapped by Zach Kreft.
I got back up and continued to fight.
The outdoor season came around and I continued to get better. I dropped my mile PR by 19 seconds and ran 4:22. Qualified to the state meet and once again got close to last.
I got back up and took the fuel of failure with me into my first college campaign at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio. An NCAA Division III school with a lot of heart and grit.
With the guidance of Coach Kyle Basista and the support from the best teammates, I continued to get better and persevere. I ended my freshman year with PRs of 25:56 in the 8k, 8:36 for 3000 meters (9:12ish 3200m) and once again dropped my “mile” PR down again to a converted 4:13 from my 3:55.35 1500 meters.
Sophomore year, we finally qualified our guys and girls teams to cross country nationals and placed 19th. I got knocked down at nationals and brought the fuel with me to indoor. I trained hard and qualified to nationals in the mile with a time of 4:14 on a 200 meter flat track (4:10.93 converted).
Sadly, I did not get to race at nationals due to the coronavirus. But, I got back up and I am continuing to try and get better at running.
In order to reach one’s full potential, they need to have the ability to recognize what is holding them back. As one gains that knowledge and learns to better the situation, their limits will be endless.
My battle with iron deficiency anemia has taught me to be patient and your struggles and failures will help lead you to your greatest successes.
I hope my story can help others discover their unknown problems, so they can get back up and fully reach their potential.
IAN PIERSON — JOHN CARROLL UNIVERSITY
1500 Meter Run — 3:55.35
One Mile Run — 4:12.76 (4:10.93*)
3000 Meter Run — 8:36.98
2019 NCAA Divison III Cross Country National Qualifier
2020 NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field National Qualifier — Mile
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