After one of my husband’s triathlon events we ran into a younger guy Ben knew from the pool he trained at. The kid was wincing in pain. He was doing sprint laps in circles around the parking lot. Ben waved him down and the kid slowed down to a jog.
Ben: Hey! The event is over. What are you doing?
Kid: I’m not happy with how I did so I’m running more.
He took off in the other direction continuing in his self deprecation.
Wow- he must have done horrible, I thought. When times later posted, I got curious and looked him up. Apparently horrible meant first in his age group. WTF?!? I didn’t understand. I still don’t understand. How is it possible to be unhappy with first in your age group? Was he hoping for first overall? I was just so confused. Is that just the mentality of an elite athlete? Is that what it would take to be the best? It made me wonder. Would being the best make me happy?
Exercise has always been apart of my life. As a kid being left alone at home (sorry to call you out ma!), I’d entertain myself doing all the exercise programs on ESPN in the morning. Bodies in Motion with Gilad, Denise Austin, & Mousercise on the Disney channel, they were all regular programs in my repertoire. It was MY idea of fun. I thought ALL the kids my age were probably doing the same thing.
In upper elementary school and Junior High, students were given throat compressors as counters for each running lap completed. I never cared how many my neighbors had, but felt complete joy if the teacher called me in after a running session and I had two handfuls of wooden sticks. In that sense, it didn’t matter to me if I appeared odd to my peers. Flat wooden sticks made me happy, and that was all there was to it.
Even before I realized my long torso and short thick legs would prevent me from going very far in the running world, I really had no desire for being the best. Does that make me an automatic loser? I ran and RUN for the pure love of it. I exercise for the natural high it always provided to me. I’m HAPPY coming in 113th place, 424th place, or even second to last place (let’s be honest, I would not be thrilled coming in dead last).
Part of me wishes I had more of that spark. With a month to go until my 7th full marathon in Chicago, I let myself slip into the same slump I’ve found myself in prior to my previous marathons. I’m missing the discipline needed for the full 4 months of training. When it comes down to it, I know I’ll finish and that’s part of the problem. Finishing is enough for me.
Although part of me wishes I were more competitive, I’m happy I’m not that kid coming in first in his age group and still feeling the need to punish himself. As awesome as everyone else in his life knows he is, he won’t ever feel that way about himself. His drive is amazing, don’t get me wrong. My hope for him is one day he finishes exactly where he thinks he should.