It’s probably pretty obvious to most, but I’m going to explain what all this Spartan imagery that I use in my posts means to me. For those who don’t know, the story of the Battle of Thermopylae is only one of the most pivotal events in civilized human history. In 480 B.C., Xerxes, king of the vast Persian Empire led an army that ancient texts claim numbered in the millions (scholars today say 100,000 to 150,000 is more accurate) intent on conquering all of the Greek City-States. As ancient Greece is the birthplace of Western Civilization and Democracy, it is fair to say that human civilization would have developed far differently if he had been successful. To block the Persian invaders, Leonidas, King of Sparta led a force of 7,000 men to hold the coastal pass of Thermopylae (The Hot Gates). For seven days, including two of non-stop battle, the Greek army held though outnumbered by most estimations at least twenty to one. They were eventually betrayed by a local named Ephialtes who led the Persian host to a small path which led behind the Greek lines. Knowing that he was being outflanked, Leonidas dismissed the majority of his army and personally stayed behind with a force of 300 Spartans, 700 Thespians and 400 Thebans to cover their retreat. The small holding force was of course destroyed but they served their purpose in sacrificing themselves to buy time for Greece to regroup. In the following Summer, at the Battle of Plataea, Greek forces were victorious over the remaining Persian forces and ended the invasion. To this day, the actions of Leonidas and the 300 are revered as a symbol of courage against overwhelming odds and the power of a well-trained and motivated force defending it’s native soil.
It’s pretty obvious, I think, why this story means so much to me. I too am up against a foe that I cannot directly beat. Those men marched North with intent of simply buying their country time and in doing so, allowed a fledgling idea of a government that represented the people to survive being stamped out by a despotic tyrant of a King. For me, all of my efforts are to buy an extra day on my feet. My ticker of 7,447 days that is my goal still has not started ticking. Every squat is a crutch being tossed away, every deadlift and bench press pushes away the wheelchair. If you fight the same battle I do, fight for time. It’s worth it. Victory may not be achievable, but true effort is the only real victory. Like I used to tell the kids I coached, winning and losing is often decided by things beyond our control. Talent, weather, a wet ball….or an incurable disease. The only thing we can truly control is our own effort. So when the day comes for me to saddle up in some damned chair to roll me around, I will hold my head up because I will know that I didn’t miss a single day on my feet. Then I will install a seatbelt so I can do pullups. I have to go now. It’s time to get to the gym for some heavy deadlifts. It’s time to march North.