I’ve written a lot lately about getting out there when the weather is tough, or its early and you are tired. I’ve written about pursuing your limits and chasing after rivals, both real and imagined. I’ve encouraged you to take credit for your accomplishments and to choose the positive when setting your goals and aspirations.
I do all these things as a way to motivate myself to take my training to the next level. In order to reach my racing goals, I need to be out there even when I don’t want to, when its uncomfortable, and when its not fun in the moment. But in truth, running is so much more then that.
I run to clear my mind, as stress relief (although I’m rarely stressed). I run because it wakes me up in the morning, and makes me a better teacher and parent. I run because I love it, and I want to inspire others to love it as well.
On days where a workout is missed, I have less patience, I’m less satisfied, and I’m often antsy.
These are shared reasons to run that I believe, we all acknowledge and can agree upon. But what to make of my writing if you don’t believe you have rivals, or you don’t think you are fast enough to inspire someone?
Could I really be writing to you as well?
First, we all have rivals; a rival is anyone you race against (rivals can be friendly and anonymous). Maybe you don’t personally have a specific rival, but somewhere someone is scanning through last years race results, they are looking at your name and thinking to themselves I can beat him next year, or there is her name again, she keeps beating me by a minute or 20 seconds, one day I’m going to turn the tables. Maybe its even a future friend, who sees your results and your town and thinks the two of you would be great training partners.
These are your rivals, they are out there, and knowingly or unknowing, you are pushing someone to be just a little better, to get in just one more workout, or to run just a bit farther then they ever have before. The fact that you step up to the start line is pulling someone else forward.
That is powerful.
You say you are not fast enough to inspire others, I say you are. It takes guts and courage to put yourself out there, against others, against the clock. Once the race starts, there is no place to hide, regardless of whether or not you are chasing a best time, an award, or just hoping to cross the finish line and get a t-shirt, you are doing something all the spectators are not. There are thousands more at home on their couch not willing to do what you do.
That is inspirational.
You never know who is watching, maybe someone in the crowd, a neighbor, a coworker, or at home still asleep in their bed, a son or a daughter.
The kids, in reality, they most likely have no idea if you are fast or slow. But they do know you are a runner. I would know, I teach them everyday. They tell me. They never know your time or your finish place (which drives the competitor in me crazy!), but they know you raced and I can hear it in their voices and see it in their eyes, they are inspired by you.
And when I tell the students about a race I’ve run, or a award I’ve received, they connect me to you, and they believe that they will be out there some day running races and winning awards. ‘If Mr. Sollenberger does it, and my parents do it, then I will do it,’ they think. When parents run, you provide the connection that makes my stories real to the kids, without you my stories have no context or meaning.
They might just be little, and only dreaming of running fast, but someday they will see that running is much more then just being fast. It takes guts and courage, but in return it provides freedom, strength, and confidence. It allows you to see a positive reflection in the mirror, and most importantly it provides anyone willing to toe the line the opportunity to inspire, which is more powerful then any words you could say or write.
We may all run for different goals and aspirations, but our personal reasons pale in comparison to the impact we can have on others.