I’ve been trying to recruit several friends to run the Charlottesville 10-Miler in March. All are athletic, all are adventurous, but most have not run that distance before, much less run it in a race. None have yet sent in their registration (the true test of commitment is in writing that check), but most have been running regularly and at least seem to be considering the possibility.
I caught a bit of grief from one of them the other night, as his wife reads this blog and had told him about my 20-miler last weekend. Jokingly implying that my recent words of encouragement on his running progress had been insincere, he said “You were cheering us on for having run 3 or 4 miles, but you didn’t tell us that you had just run 20!”
Exactly right. The length of my run had absolutely nothing to do with his run. One of the great things about distance running is that you can look at any run as a competition with yourself – a competition of one. No matter how fast you are, no matter how far you can go, there is always room to go a little faster, run a little farther. It seems that nearly every time I find myself running strong and start to engage in a bit of self-congratulation about my pace, I will hear footsteps behind me and the next thing I know I will have been passed like I’m standing still by some young guy with 3% body fat who’s not even breathing hard. It’s humbling, but does that discount the fact that I was running strong? No. It simply means that the other guy was running stronger. And, at least in my universe, there will always be someone who is running stronger.
Even a race, which is ostensibly a competition to see who will cross the finish line first, can be viewed as hundreds, or in the case of the Charlottesville 10-Miler, 2,000, competitions of one. Out of 2,000 entrants, there might be a dozen runners in that race with any hope of winning. Last year’s winning time was 52:31, leaving the winner with enough time to take a shower and a short nap before my daughter and I crossed the finish line. This year, I hope to be somewhere around mile 6 1/2 when the winner finishes. This will still leave him with enough time for a quick shower, but he’ll have to skip the nap. There will, though, be others who will only be at mile 4 when he crosses the tape. Will that make their accomplishment, or mine, any less noteworthy? No. Anyone who shows up on that Saturday morning and pushes hard for however long it takes will have a reason to be proud.
I hope my friends will keep that in mind.