I didn’t start running until I was in my 30s. Finishing my first 5k just a few weeks shy of my 32 birthday with a time of 32:40.
Before then, I just assumed running was for athletes. Those special people born with natural speed and agility. Why would I ever enter a race when I don’t have a chance in hell of winning? Why would I bother humiliating myself? I’m not fast. I’m not an athlete. My body isn’t made for running. I’m not good at it —at least that’s what I was told when I was younger.
Yesterday I ran with and witness my 7 year old son cross the finish line of his first elementary school "cross country" race.
He didn’t win.
He wasn’t even close to being the fastest.
Running a mile is hard for him –as it is for most people– but he did it and he enjoyed it. He pushed through those moments where his brain told him to stop. He kept running even though he saw his friends fly by him without needing a break to walk or moment to catch their breath.
I could tell he was a little disappointed. He’s not one of the naturally fast kids. Even though we talked about him probably not winning, it stung his hopeful young mind.
After the event we went out to dinner and talked about how exciting the meet was and how proud I was of him. Thats when I told him what I love about running.
When I enter an event I have no hopes of being the first to cross the finish line. I don’t think I’m going to win my age range or even come in the top 1/3 of finishers, but I’m not running to prove I’m the fastest. I’m running because it’s fun and challenging. I’m running because it keeps me in shape and gives me a much needed outlet. I’m running because I like to surround myself with energetic people who like to challenge themselves and live active lives.
I congratulated Ryan on his finish time of 10:14 and said,
"You know what my favorite part of running is?"
He looked at me curiously.
"My favorite part is trying to beat myself."
He crinkled his brow in confusion.
"You did awesome today. You ran a mile in 10 minutes and 14 seconds. Now next week you can try to run just a little bit faster."
His eyes lit up.
"You can try to beat yourself."
And I saw it.
I saw the spark.
All of sudden he didn’t seem solemn about not winning. Now he seemed excited and motivated about the prospect of beating himself and "winning" the next race.
I’m not a naturally talented athlete, and like most people, I’ll never be the first person to cross a finish line. I’m going to bet you won’t either, but running for the rest of us doesn’t have to mean being THE absolute best. All it requires is wanting to be OUR absolute best.