The idea of “competitive running,” to 21-year-old me, is oxymoronic — though this hasn’t always been the case.
I remain quietly cutthroat when jogging, which isn’t the best trait to have when you are slow.
Let the record show that I have lost more races than I’ve run. I did win one heat in my sixth grade 100-meter dash. My heat was slow, though. So I didn’t place. It wasn’t close.
I’m not a stereotypical turtle, though. My annual mile runs were fast enough to qualify for “national” recognition in presidential fitness standards, but I hated running it anyway. The run was futile.
In order to win the comprehensive National Fitness Award, one must be able to:
- Run a mile fast enough (check)
- Do a bunch of sit ups and one pull up (check)
- Stretch past his/her knees.
My hamstrings are as flexible as wood planks. It wasn’t close.
It bothered me that I was not a decorated athlete, and I let this keep me on the sidelines. I told myself I am a nerd, not an athlete. My home is the library, not the weight room. That’s how status quos work.
And then one day I decided that was stupid.
By shifting my focus from how I performed — especially compared to others — to how the experience itself was, I freed myself.
Instead of performance, I think of the run itself: the left-right-left-right dance of my feet, the time signature of my inhales and exhales, my flailing arms.
I still judge myself (and others) while jogging, but these thoughts have far less importance than they used to. If you let these fun-sucking factors take over your run, you miss too much.
How fast did I run that race, you ask? No idea; I forgot my pocket watch at home. Anyway, time is just a social construct of the mind.
What place did I finish the race? I wasn’t first. I wasn’t last. But I know I finished.