Comeback Stories

AJW looks at comeback stories of various sorts and what they offer us.

By on April 12, 2019 | Comments

AJW's TaproomThe world of sports is filled with inspiring comeback stories. The Buffalo Bills coming back from a 32-point deficit to beat Houston in the 1993 U.S. National Football League playoffs, the 2004 Red Sox coming back from three games down to beat the Yankees in the U.S. American League Championship Series, the 2016 Cavaliers coming back from two games down to beat the Warriors in the North America National Basketball Association Finals, to name just a few. Earlier this week, when the University of Virginia (UVA) Cavaliers men’s basketball team beat Texas Tech for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship it capped one of the greatest comeback stories in sports history.

Just one year ago, in the very first round of the NCAA Tournament, UVA, the #1 overall seed in the tournament, lost to the 16th seed, University of Maryland, Baltimore County 74 to 54. The Cavaliers returned to Charlottesville humiliated as they were the first #1 seed in the history of the 64-team format to lose to a #16 seed. Furthermore, they returned to a city that was still reeling from the scars left by the August 2017 violence that brought the city to the attention of the world and fomented division and stress throughout the community. When Tony Bennett’s team returned victorious this past Tuesday, after their extraordinary comeback, they brought with them hope and the potential for healing to the small, proud city of Charlottesville.
The journey of the UVA basketball team reminded me, once again, of the transcendent power of sports. The Cavaliers’s comeback gave me the chance to once again realize that what we do on the court, field, roads, and trails can have profound and lasting impact on us and our communities. In ultrarunning, our beloved sport, there are countless inspiring comeback stories. In recent years, we’ve watched in awe as Hillary Allen has returned to form after a devastating and life-threatening fall and Dave Mackey has come back to running after having his leg amputated as a result of a violent accident out in the mountains. These stories have been told in public for all to see, but there are hundreds of other comeback stories that we do not see but that are equally transcendent.
Many of us, perhaps too frequently, find ourselves coming back from injury. Some of these injuries are minor while others can threaten our very ability to do what we love. Others among us come back to running after long layoffs brought on by life changes or circumstantial realities while still others among us come back to the sport after years away because we became burned out or exhausted. Perhaps the most inspiring quiet comebacks I have seen are from those members of our running community who may, for whatever reason, not be able to run ultras anymore and they return to the sport to give back as volunteers, ambassadors, and friends of the sport. As a matter of fact, these folks, at times, form the lifeblood of the sport and keep us connected to the past and hopeful for the future.
Not all comeback stories are as galvanizing at the UVA men’s basketball team, but they can all change us and motivate us, however small. All of these comebacks can show us the power of resilience, patience, optimism, and hope, values which are inherent to our sport and qualities that can keep us moving progressively forward, even on our most challenging days.
Bottoms up!
AJW’s Beer of the Week
Dogfish Head Slightly Mighty Lo-Cal IPAThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, Delaware. Recently, I had the opportunity to sample one of their newest beers, Slightly Mighty Lo-Cal IPA. At first, I was skeptical, but this new IPA, brewed with monk-fruit extract and containing a mere 95 calories per 12-ounce can, was most certainly not your typical light beer. Bursting with fruity, hoppy flavor and balanced with just the right amount of bitterness, if I didn’t know better, I would think was drinking a full-calorie IPA!
Call for Comments (from Bryon)
  • What are your favorite comeback stories from running, other sports, or anywhere?
  • What about them inspires you?
Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.