The mist was still hanging over the lake. You could smell the deep heat in the air as the nervous tension was rising off of the athletes gathered by the water. The tall, wetsuit glad man next to me started up conversation: ‘So, what… 7 minutes? It shouldn’t be more than that really should it? I mean it’s only 400m… So not long at all. Apparently some people do it in 10 minutes?!’ He said with slight disgust.
‘I shouldn’t be here’ I thought, as the man continued his elitist tirade. I started second-guessing myself: ‘Am I really that slow?’ I asked. ‘What have I got myself into?’. And then I remembered – This race was my race.
I was doing this race for me, nobody else. Just like that, a calm washed over me. I let his words wash over me, I noticed his shaking hands and his wobbling lip – he was nervous. His chatter was nothing but pre-race jitters. He was completely unaware of who he was standing with and he had no idea of how fast anyone else was. He hadn’t singled me out as ‘the slow one’. So I took a breathe and got back in the ‘zone’. I did not follow the others into the water too early and float there, freezing, I stood on the shore and waiting until the last minute. I didn’t care what people thought. I was about to race my heart out, my way.
My running partner and I both started off in similar positions, frequently uttering the ‘ohh I wish I was as fast as she is’ or ‘ohhh if only we could run that time for a half marathon…’. We berated ourselves for slowing our pace and we are often found on start lines trying to block out others frantically talking about average pace, starting pace, finishing time, chip time etc etc. On the flip-side, we too often dodge walkers on park-run who, by trying to keep up with others – friends, family, the person in front – have overdone it and have had to slow to a walk. To this I say RUN YOUR OWN DAMN RACE.
Forget about anyone else, forget what your friend/family thinks you should do, forget the speed the guy on the time-trial bike goes off at, after-all, you’ll catch them on the hill, you’ll pass them on the flats and you’ll feel bloody fantastic about it. You won’t beat yourself up for stopping to walk because you are running at your own pace, not trying to keep up with a friend. You won’t panic in open water and call for the kayak – you will be steady, you will be comfortable, you’ll be you.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not abolishing goals and aspirations but boy, have I noticed a difference from the moment I changed my ‘I wish I could swim/bike/run that fast’ to ‘i’m going to train my butt off so one day, I WILL be that fast’. I know this is easier said than done when you feel everyone around you is faster, passing you on the first ParkRun lap – i’ve been there, I get it, but I urge you do yourself some wonderful justice and recognise how far you’ve come. Then, set your sights on how far you want to go.
Run your own race and enjoy the journey while you’re at it.