in Thoughts

Why I Race, Part 1

I vaguely recall a time in my life before I raced. Vaguely.

I did a few running races early in the year before the Portland marathon in 2005, those were my first races as an adult. But even earlier then that, I ran Bloomsday in Spokane a few times; the first time was more of a stroll, but the second time I decided I should actually train and try to do well. I was probably 13 years old. I dropped out of school sports early on, so I never raced in track or swimming or anything along those lines that involved actual coaching. I only lined up early in the morning with everyone in town, the only trophy a t-shirt and a finisher’s medal.

But truth be told, I’ve been competitive since the day I was born. About everything. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a sore loser, nor am I a jerk about it, it’s more internal then that: I want to push myself to be my best. At all things. All the time. And when I determine that this is impossible, I completely give up all together. At least I used to; I dropped out of all sports in middle school because I didn’t make varsity as a 7th grader. Ugh.

I really have tried to stop being like this, but to be honest, that’s the way I’m hard-wired. Sure I’ve done plenty of racing “for fun”, but it’s not fun. I’d really rather not race if I’m not competitive.

What has changed is what “competitive” means. I’ve realized I need a goal and something to compete against, but that’s not necessarily for first place. Maybe there’s a specific person I want to beat. Maybe there’s a specific time goal I have, or maybe I want to beat my previous ranking.

To me, racing is all about competition and goal-setting. It’s about proving to myself that I can commit to something and follow through. That I can push myself, even when it hurts, to go further or faster then I thought I could.

Accomplishing and surpassing your goals becomes addictive, in all areas of your life. When I succeed in training, I begin to succeed in other things. I see myself as a winner, as someone who gets shit done. Suddenly projects that I was dragging my feet on months before seem easy. I have a schedule and I stick to it. I train myself in this habit of continual improvement and it becomes a way of life.

“Need something done? Ask a busy person.” That is me to a T. When I’m humming along with training, I can get all kinds of shit done. It’s when I’m off season or injured that putting a fucking spoon in the dishwasher seems like an uphill battle.

So many things in life are hazy and uncertain and it’s hard to tell if you’re doing well or horribly screwing up. People can be hard to read, politics and undercurrents run rampant at work, what can be a win one day can turn around and be a loss the next. Life’s uncertain. But beating your previous record by three minutes, that’s an un-qualified success.  Sometimes you just want to throw your arms up and celebrate your victories, and what better place to do that then the finish line?

There’s more! Go read Part 2