Running the high hurdles isn’t easy when you are vertically challenged.

Yet despite being only 5 feet, 8 inches (173 cm)—markedly shorter than the other boys in starting blocks on my high school’s running track—I was about to sprint past them, bounding over 42-inch (107 cm) hurdles and finishing first. This came as a surprise to our track and field coach, who a few months earlier had said to me, “You’re too short. This is not something that somebody your size should be doing.”

My friends and I were track and field runners who decided to jump a few hurdles for fun. Hurdling was not our sport, and we inexpertly knocked most of the barricades down. I managed to topple all of them, snapping one on impact. The coach was sensibly upset with ...

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