it should never be ‘just’ a race

We left under the light of a near-full moon. We drove east and watched the sun rise over the fields of autumn corn and grains. For a while a long freight train rolled alongside. We saw deer and knew there were more tucked away in the trees and fields nearby. It was in the 40s so there wasn’t frost on the ground but there was a definite smell of fall in the air.

And then we stripped off our clothes and jumped in a lake.

The water was 20 degrees warmer than the air. It didn’t exactly feel warm – 70 degree lake water could never be called warm – but it was definitely warmer than the air. Or the wet sand on which we stood for 45 minutes, in our swimsuits, waiting for the race to start.

The question naturally is “Why do we do this?” No one made us do it. Just ourselves, totally voluntarily. Heck, we even paid to do it. So, why?

We do it because it’s fun to have a challenge in front of us. We do it because we care enough about our bodies and our health to push them to new limits. We do it because we can.

And yet, when we are asked that question – and when you tell people you’re doing a triathlon in late September you do get that question more than once – we tend to say something like “Oh, it’s just a sprint triathlon.” And it’s true – for the very serious athlete our feat is not so impressive. And honestly, once you’ve done something like this, it loses a bit of its mystique for you too. But here’s the thing – it’s never just a triathlon or just a 10K run or just a half marathon.

We work hard to get to the point where we can even think of saying it was just a sprint triathlon. Very hard. And instead of downplaying our effort we should celebrate it. Because for an awful lot of people what we did this weekend is improbable, unlikely and too difficult to even think about.

I remember just 12 months ago meeting my new running friends every Wednesday morning. New in the sense that they were new friends and the fact that I had ‘running’ friends was new too. I was pushing myself just to consistently run three miles. When I first hit four miles without having to stop, it was a milestone. And plenty of people push to run those 3-4 miles and it’s enough for them. So, today, I’m going to try and keep that self in mind – the self who didn’t have any big dreams of doing long races and certainly not triathlons. Because I just completed a sprint triathlon (with a head cold mind you) and I had a blast doing it.

I’m not sure what made me go from that person last fall to a person who has done a half-marathon and two triathlons in the past five months. But I like it.

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