If I can’t win, I won’t run

When I first heard those lines, my immediate response was this. “How arrogant! That guy has some serious pride issues!” My heart never skipped a beat nor did I allow that remark to strike a chord with me as the rest of the dvd, ‘The Chariots of Fire’ played on. I had heard there were some great quotes concerning running and faith in the script and I thought this movie would be perfect to watch before running a half marathon. I was hoping for some extra motivation; some positive mental reserve I could call on in the final miles to keep my spirits up and help me finish strong. And while watching the film, I certainly didn’t think the olympic sprinter, Harold M. Abrahams, who confessed, “If I can’t win, I won’t run” to his leading lady would be the one to challenge me and inspire me. Because honestly, I had never considered myself competitive (with others), I am not one who believed it is important (with regards to others) to be first at things, and the idea that actually winning anything (even 1000th place) in this half-marathon (with 6000 others) was absolutely inconceivable. So what could I possibly have in common with this pretentious character who has this complex of needing to win and be the best? No, this line DID NOT apply to me! Or so I thought…

With the first half-marathon, the experience was a positive one, at least in my summation. But instead of just being excited that I had run farther than I ever had run before (that detail got lost in my “non-competitive” mind), I focused only on my completion time. And because I wasn’t disappointed with the results, I now had a determined mindset that ALL future marathons HAD to be finished with my average pace falling in a certain range. Anything less would not be acceptable to me.

That first race was so fun!! Lots of people cheering, music, a completion medal & t-shirt, food, and (I love this next part) it was perfectly acceptable to drink a couple of beers before 10 in the morning! It totally had me fired up to try again for another half. It was very doable and I had a great time. But could I push myself even more? I didn’t really care, no time to think about that. I seemed to be content just knowing that I did what I already knew I could do (a little bit sad when you think about it) . And I still believed attempting a full was out of the question. But at this point, I never allowed myself to wrestle with “why?” I felt that way.

So the night before the second marathon comes along, we host a pasta party with other fellow runners. They are all running the full 26 miles, I am the only one running 13; so I begin to feel a little bit of ambition tugging at me. But I didn’t really toy around with that possibility. My focus was still set, only because I felt certain I could, to keep my time for this half within my acceptable pace range. Little did I know, or admit to myself, that I was labeling this goal “acceptable” because I would consider the race a loss in my book if I didn’t meet my completion time standard (some might say the opposite of lose is win, yes? And “win” is in the title of this blog. See…I am still trying to help you out with the foreshadowing here)

Ten miles into my second race, the half-marathoners split up with the full-marathoners. The folks in my group finish up running a “measly” (I’m using that word in comparison terms only here…) three miles while the latter continues on with another 16. I do begin to feel rather mediocre. But I press on, making sure I don’t suffer defeat with a speed slower than my goal. Thankfully the big stop watch at the finish line assures me that I made it; wahoo! another personal victory (yes, there is sarcasm there). Because when I succeeded with that, it just wasn’t as satisfying as I had hoped it would be. I think it was due to the fact that, secretly, I had already believed myself capable of attaining the pace I wanted (and what is so noteworthy about that?). I was starting to realize there was this side of me that only sets out to try new things that I feel certain I won’t fail at.

Whatever happened to give it your best and have fun?? I don’t know, that wasn’t in my realm of reasoning. So questions were pondered. Am I shying away from attempting to run a full because I think I have to do it with a certain pace? Shouldn’t it be fair to say a self-victory of finishing a full-marathon for the first time is indeed “winning”? Or do I think “winning” involves keeping the same pace as my half-marathons and focusing only on the speed. For me, it was the pace thing : ( And so I had to come to terms with the reality that I too was in essence saying, “if I can’t win, I won’t run.”

But in the movie, Harold’s girl Sybil very wisely counters his comment with, “If you don’t run, you can’t win.” How true!! And yes, while my first desire would be to know that maybe, just maybe, I could run the full distance with my ideal pace (and that I won’t know unless I try); it is even more important for me to own up to the fact that I need get over this personal pride issue. If I am going to be teaching my children to be brave and try new things, giving it their best, and to enjoy themselves no matter what the results (because isn’t that what true “winning” is all about?); I need to be able to be someone to model that behavior to them. “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t work here.

Wow, sorry I am looking up through all these words and realizing this is very long! I’ll try to wrap it up. So all said and done, I made up my mind that for better or for worse, I need to do this. In March I signed up for the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio marathon . The big day is November 16th. And “low” and “slow” are the categories for this blog; for many reasons.

Low: Well, I had to learn how prideful I was. That is a low feat. And sadly, I am STILL of the mindset that I will not learn my lesson soon enough. Just knowing how my brain works, I still believe I will be sorely disappointed if my time doubles my half-marathon time by more than just a couple of minutes. I desperately want to get over that goal and just be proud to know I attempted such a long run and that I gave it my best (regardless of what that clock at the end says). But I am sure it will be a long drawn-out process in getting myself to wise up in that area. I know that I need to redefine in my mind (and heart!) what success and winning are really all about.

Slow: This is a time-consuming training and slow-going process, with many more weeks to go. I won’t be ready, mentally or physically, overnight. And, with the last long-training run I did on Saturday, I am seeing glimpses of just how “slow” I might really be when it comes race day. That little virtual runner on my garmin forerunner quickly ran off my screen with the pace I gave him; and I never did catch him. I’ll get him next time! Oh wait. I can’t admit that, I forgot I already claimed that am not competitive : )

So stay tuned and see how I do. Do I learn my lesson? Can I actually survive all the training AND then the actual 26.2 marathon miles? I hope I can write about saying, ‘yes’ to all of them!

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4 Responses to If I can’t win, I won’t run

  1. Summer says:

    Of course, you’ll survive your training and complete the 26.2 mile marathon!! Just think I’m only doing the half-marathon, so you’re already beating me!? I love reading your truth & honesty, it’s humbling & makes me love you even more! :)

  2. Kathy says:

    Hi Jo–You don’t know me, but I am a friend of Lynn’s…she sent me your blog (I’m also a marathoner). Just wanted to say that I think it’s AMAZING you are doing this with 3 kids! And I totally know what you mean about your ‘competitive’ side coming out–haha! Races are addictive, yeah? :) Anyway, just wanted to wish you good luck! A friend of mine is also doing the full in San Antonio, and I know he’s really looking forward to it! :)

  3. Kelly says:

    Hey girl! I have San Antonio on my schedule of events too, but I am doing the measly half. My training has been crappy because I am on a bike kick. Anyway, I can’t wait to see you pass me up at the finish line!

  4. David says:

    Totally against the spirit of marathoning, I know, I know…

    BUT Sarah Palin ran a sub-4 marathon (3:59:24 sec.) to be precise,

    So go Jo go!

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