Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Keeping the Pace

Have you ever been feeling really good about yourself and something you’ve done only to realize later that it didn’t compare to the accomplishment of someone quietly standing right beside you? It God’s way of keeping us humble, I guess. I spend a lot of time being humble.

I ran a 5K Saturday morning at the local park. It was my third race and the site of the first race I ever ran. My goal was to beat my time from the first race. I’m still pretty new to all of this racing stuff, so I have no illusions about my abilities. I’m really slow compared to the master runners. The overall winner ran a 5:36 mile. That’s twice as fast as me. I can’t even imagine what that’s like. Maybe someday. I worked really hard this time to pace myself, to rest appropriately and to eat all the right stuff prior to the race. The first time I raced I didn’t know anything about carb loading or tapering or all that other fancy running stuff. Now I know to eat my whole wheat spaghetti the day before the race, to get at least eight hours of sleep the two nights before the race and not to jump out there with all the fast guys when the starting buzzer goes off.

As I headed toward the back of the line-up with the other slow folks, I laughed and joked about speed with a business acquaintance who said he wasn’t really a runner but wanted to participate because it was a charity event. His goal was to finish, so I wished him luck and assured him he would be fine. I put on my ear buds, adjusted my iPod and tried to stay focused on my goal. Stick to your pace. Stick to your pace, I kept telling myself. Sometimes you feel good when you run. Sometimes you feel like a tired old poop. I felt great Saturday morning. I kept slightly ahead of my training pace, hitting my first mile at the ten minute mark. That’s good for me. I did a second ten minute mile and had good energy during the third and final mile. I even had some kick at the end. I hit the finish line two and half minutes faster than the first time I raced. I was beaming when I hit the shoot. I thought I might even have a shot at placing in my age division.

I stuck around to watch the youth race and to see the awards. As I was mingling around the crowd, that business acquaintance walked up to me and congratulated me on a good run. Well thanks, I said, still feeling pretty pleased about my time. He told me that he sees me running around town on my lunch hour and asked me why I run. I told him about all of the heart disease and diabetes in my family. “I understand,” he said. “I had brain surgery last year. I had a tumor removed.” I was floored and for the first time, noticed the scar on the front of his scalp. He went on to explain that the race was his way of celebrating his survival and his recovery. I got the feeling that he hadn’t shared that with many folks. He hurried off to get to his son’s soccer match, and I just stood there for a minute, absorbing what he had told me. It suddenly put a whole new meaning to the notion of racing. It’s not really how fast you run, it’s the desire to keep running. Hmmm. Humbled again.

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