I was lucky to spend this past weekend visiting one of my kids up in her cute little college town. We celebrated her birthday, went to the movies on campus (if you’ve never seen ‘The Book Thief,’ make time to – and have your tissues close at hand), did some rearranging in her room, and hung out with her friends. The culminating event for our weekend was a half marathon we’d signed up for months prior, and her roommate would be joining our adventure. I have run my share of races; neither of the girls had ever attempted this distance before.
Training for each of us was….so-so at best. The girls were on track with a lot of discipline and excitement surrounding it until spring break hit. I was my usual self, running shorter distances and totally ignoring the best laid plans. Not smart, but not unheard of in the running world.
The three of us discussed our race strategy the night before the race. We picked up our bibs at the expo, which was an experience in itself (visit Feisty Fit on Facebook if you love fun fitness wear) and strolled back over to the dorms together, where M’s roommate blurted out, “No matter what, I want to all stick together!” Self-admittedly, she was feeling a little anxious about the start line the following morning. I shook my head “no” and insisted she stay open to the idea of splitting up.
Race day was sunny and beautiful; and I would say the same about the runners lining up to start. The national anthem was belted out by one of the most beautiful alto voices I’ve ever heard (an alum of the college, here for the weekend to give back to the place she loved so much), and the countdown to start sent us off through the streets of this cute little college town, crossing nine bridges and sending us through a cheering section on campus that was fantastically motivating.
As we approached the first bridge, perhaps a mile and a half in, I prodded M’s roommate to move ahead without us. After a bit of a back and forth struggle, she was convinced. Her pace increased slightly, and as she began to separate, she looked over her shoulder. “I’m really nervous!” she yelled, to which I replied with confidence, “You are going to be just fine.”
As we stood in line for our free bratwurst (it is Wisconsin, after all) at the post-race festivities, M’s roommate was glowing with pride. In fact, we all were. “I didn’t think I could do it!” was the overall theme to the stream of excitement flowing from the girls. I had purposefully waited for this moment to share my thoughts on running.
I have firm beliefs about running, I told them. And my beliefs apply to more than just running, they apply to everything across the board. In fact, they apply to life itself. You absolutely have to run your own race. Only you know how you’re feeling at any given moment. Only you know your goals and visions for yourself. Only you know your tolerance for pain, only you know what you are capable of. Only you know what your gut is telling you about the course you are carving out.
In life, those who run their own race face the risk of being labeled “selfish.” I am here to tell you, it is not. The word selfish actually means that you lack consideration for others, that you are only concerned with your own profit or your own pleasure. Have you ever met a runner? The definition of selfish couldn’t be further from the truth with regards to almost any runner I’ve ever known. In fact, the majority of people I know (runners or not) actually have a great deal of consideration for others. We simply understand that it is important to follow our own path rather than trying to maintain along someone else’s. Because, quite simply, someone else’s path just doesn’t have our name on it.
We made our way through the bratwurst line where (for the first time in my running history) I had to turn down the free beer as my sights turned toward my long drive home. M’s roommate covered her mouth with her napkin and squished her eyes together because of the spicy mustard she’d loaded on. She took a long drink of water and smiled at me. “You know? After I left you guys, any time I was jittery about the race and wondered if I could really finish, I kept picturing you and kept hearing you say ‘You’re going to be just fine,’ and that’s what actually got me through.”
In light of that comment, I would like to share the same thoughts with all of you. Run your own race, girls. You are going to be just fine.