This past weekend, I volunteered at our local high school Cross Country meet. There were easily over 500 high school runners at this event representing every level of athleticism. My responsibility was to make sure the kids walked through the shoot after they completed the race and remove their numbers so they could be recorded and posted. The one thing that caught my attention right away was the enthusiasm for the kids who came in 1st and those who came in dead last. The feedback was the same
and you could see that each kid felt like that had accomplished something good! I thought that was just an amazing message to send to their kids, team mates and friends.
I quickly started to think about my running buddies and fellow athletes. Thinking about conversations and all the goals we set and commitments we make to run better, faster and longer. We change our shoes, diets and even outfits just to make a difference in what we WANT to happen.
How do we get from this. . .
"I have this goal and I am going to meet it! That's what will make me happy!" to this. . .
. . ."Well, yeah, I did good but if I just would have added THIS to my workout, I could have done that. My meal plans were not quite where they should have been so I performed well, but it could have been SO MUCH better!" Really?
Don't get me wrong, I am guilty of this as well. Last year, I ran my annual AFC 1/2 marathon and set a goal to run 1:39. I trained hard, did everything I needed to do to meet that goal. Well, I finished the race running a 1:41. I beat myself up FOR WEEKS! I reviewed my training, what I ate and even what I was wearing. Why was I not satisfied with my time? I am not a "true" long distance runner, I was not trying to qualify for anything and there was not a million dollar purse at the end of the race for those who ran a 1:39. . .heck not even for the first place runner! I had completely crushed my joy of running weeks after the event.
As children, unfortunately, we are conditioned that way. Whether you have a supporting family or not, levels are established and you just have to get there. But what happens from there? Heck, if I can do that. . .just think what would happen if I could do this?
There is nothing wrong with wanting to improve yourself but you need to find happiness at each level. Learn from your mistake, be happy with your accomplishments (live in it) and then move forward with a stronger understanding. You have to come to the conclusion that if you accomplish your goals or even if you don't, you are still happy with yourself for even trying and it doesn't matter what others think of you. If you fall down, know that you can get back up. If you stay in the same place, you are fine with that and there is no room to judge yourself or to allow others to!
As a runner/athlete, let's look at 3 general levels we tend to fall into. Learning to be satisfied with each level seems to be easier said than done. But once you get that running bug, your whole mindset changes and you want more.
A novice runner (or a beginner) runs fewer than 15 miles a week (about 1.5-2 miles a day) and are known to have "limited" race experience. Ok, so you decided one day that you didn't want to be a couch potato and started to run. You are moving, building your confidence and you are seeing improvements in the way you look and feel. What's bad about that? Absolutely nothing. So, you want to move up to intermediate. Find a workout, understand that it will take time and combine your "beginner's" workout with your "intermediate"workout for a few weeks making sure you are STILL having fun with your new sport. . .running!
Next there is the intermediate runner and these semi-crazy runners have set their goals. Their goals now determine their workout regime and commitment to the sport. You know who you are. The right shoes are now into play and you have established "a look" for your next race. Man, I hate talking about myself but if you've been in the running game for quite some time, you know what I am talking about. Sometimes this is the worse level you can be at because you don't want to look or act like a beginner and you definitely want a taste of being an advanced runner from time to time. Look, unless your goal is to get to the Olympics. . .relax! Why did you get into running in the first place? How more enriched would your life be if you did run a 1:39 and not a 1:41? Would the "Runner's Lottery Ticket People" be ringing your door with a check in hand the next day? Uh. . .no! So, enjoy your accomplishment and relish in the fact that you can easily run 3 miles without stopping. LOL! There are a LOT of people who can NOT say that and wish that they could.
Then there is the advanced runner who is definitely a racer and at this level, if you need to learn how to be satisfied. . .recap the 2012 Olympics (particularly the women's events). Why women? Women are can be nasty competitors and it doesn't matter if we play on the same team or not. This year the Olympics seemed to defy that notion. You could see the "team" work, spirit and encouragement. No matter if they won the gold or came in last, they were genuinely happy to be there and it showed! At this level, it can be lonely at the top and if you are not satisfied with your accomplishments, it can be dark. This is where you take your expertise and share it with others so that they can learn through real experience.