I have run many races in my life and I always wonder why I like to run so much. It seems that every time someone finds out that I just completed another race I get that inevitable question, “How did you do?”
Recently, I just finished mapping out an aggressive training plan for two more sprint triathlons (one this weekend and one in October), the Goofy Challenge in January 2010 (a half marathon on Saturday and full marathon on Sunday, see you there Steve :>)) and a very optimistic goal for a 40 and 50 mile run in March and April 2010. And, in the back of my mind there is an Olympic length triathlon next summer that I would love to participate in.
Exercise is important to me because it makes me feel more energetic, alive and positive in my mental and emotional states. We have a joke in the house that if Dad doesn’t exercise he turns into his alter ego of “grouchy bear.” That is also why we have our kids stay active.
This past Tuesday was the last swim meet of the summer and the kids have really enjoyed their swimming experience. At the end of every swim meet my kids get the same question as me, “How did you do?” And they usually answer, “I did OK, I came in first in my heat, or not too good.” There are many people in our neighborhood who if you ask them, “How did your kids do?” They all measure it the same, in terms of what place their kids took.
I know there is a school of thought that says, “Winning is everything” but I offer a question to you. At a marathon, if there are 30,000 runners is there only one winner? Yes and No. Isn’t the real purpose of being in the race to define in some way who you really are? To find what you are made of? To determine if you allow yourself to feel accomplishment and success to feel good about yourself?
When people ask me, “How did your kids do?” I always work to say, “He was great, he knew he was coming in last but gave 100% until the very end.” Or, “she was totally crushed that she did not finish first like her friend, but we got her focused to use that emotion so she is looking forward to coming to practice tomorrow and working harder.”
My kids ask me the question after I come back from every race and I tell them, “by participating in the race I am a winner, I finished strong, and I am looking forward to running another day.”
However, that is not really the whole truth either. For me, every race is won as soon as I experience that moment where I find myself face to face with myself either in physical pain, mental and emotional pain, or the emotional high of being so grateful for my life it hurts.
For me personally, the race is never defined by the moment that I cross the finish line. The race if defined in the hundreds of miles of training and during brief intense emotional moments that happen during the race itself. The race is defined in those moments when a person comes face to face with their own limitations and it is in those moments of decision that your destiny is shaped. When I decide to either embrace and push through those painful moments to experience more of myself or give up and quit.
If you see me at the pool be sure and ask, “How did your kids do?” I can already tell you that they won because throughout the season they were in the race and gave 100%. For the last 8 weeks, 5 days a week they have practiced, took swim lessons, experience ribbons for first place and came in last. They did their best.
Ask me over the next year, “How did you do?” at the end of each of my big audacious race goals and I will tell you something to the effect of, “Great, I came face to face with my fears during that swim at 200 meters, I pushed through the burning of my legs on that 14th mile of the bike ride, I never dreamed I would actually complete that training plan for the Goofy Challenge, or that 39th mile was mentally and emotionally the longest of my life, but I pushed through and never quit. I found myself in those miles and made myself more.” I hope those will be the answers to your question.
I hope that you find a way to engage in a meaningful endeavor that will allow you to come face to face with your limitations, push through, and become more. I will be asking you, “How did you do?” And, hope you have an answer deeper than “first or second place.” Stay in the race of life and I look forward to hearing how you did.