During the one hour and thirty five minutes it took to run I did some thinking. Not a lot of it though, when I run it’s a stream of short thoughts that pop in and out like lightning bugs blinking at dusk. Most thoughts are short and interrupted by how my legs feel or thoughts about loosening my arms. One persistent thought throughout this was competition.
In this race I finished 18th overall, but the big question was, did I finish ahead of myself?
In the final mile of the race there was a runner ahead of me wearing a blue shirt, black headband, and black shorts. He was a representation of my potential and I had to catch up with him. He represented what I could do, I could run that fast. I didn’t want to beat him, I wanted to beat that proxy of me. I wanted to be better than I used to be or - be the best I could be at that moment.
Long before this final mile I was thinking that everything in life is like that. High school football started in our area and the battles are beginning. Teams come running onto the field as AC/DC plays. Coaches and players scream about battle and victory. Adolescent males get to do adolescent male things. These players and teams aren’t playing one another though, they’re playing themselves. Each opponent is a measuring stick for how much better you’ve gotten. Have you gotten strong? Then go tackle that other kid. Have I gotten faster? Then go catch up to the guy in the blue shirt.
The wonderful thing about this self-competition is that it’s forever and in everything. During the run I was a runner, that afternoon I was a handyman fixing duct work in our basement, and that evening I was a storyteller to our daughters. In each of these things I was a bit better than the day before.
Maybe the secret to running and life is the same, we keep moving forward and do it a little better each day.