Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Race Is Long, And In The End, It's Only With Yourself

Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself.  ~from that famous Sunscreen song

These Two Will Remember Each Other For Life

Racing against another human being just doesn't happen for me much anymore. Unless you count my own ghost running alongside me, It's been a long time since I've been in a running duel with anyone other than myself. In fact, I do my best to stay out of them, and the self-talk that echoes in my head during an event goes like this:  "Run Your Own Race, At Your Own Pace..." "the race is long, and in the end, it is only against yourself."  All of these are mantra's trying to keep me from blowing my event by keeping up with someone faster than me.
But there is something magical that happens when you do duel with another runner.

Back in high school track it happened all the time, usually during those fabulous days of intervals and speedwork. In those days, we would warm up with 2 miles slow, and then do 10 to 12 quarter mile intervals under 70 seconds. The sweet scolding burn of my lungs from competing against a fellow teammate, at times getting beaten by a last kick, other times saying 'no way, I got this one,' pushed me to new heights.
These days, my quarter mile intervals would take nearly twice as long. Ah, youth is wasted on the young.

So, since high school, my running has mostly against my own internal demons and demonessess, or just looking to get to the finish line.  But I have stumbled on a couple competitors.

In the Scotty Hanton Half Marathon, I ran the whole event with a skinny fellow alongside me, who I could tell was in my age group, and after the crowd got sparse, it was just me and him and nobody else within 25 yards. It was clear after about 5 lead changes between they both of us that we were using each other as a competitor. We didn't say a word to each other, but easily felt each others presence. It was like we were running doppelgangers.  I was able to win at the end and picked up an age group award, and wanted to hug him afterwards, to thank him for bringing out the best in me. There was this incredible unspoken bond after running alongside each other for an hour and a half.

For many years, I had a friend/acquaintance  marathoner who had similar time goals as mine. I say friend slash acquaintance because we were friendly, liked to see each other, but  we only talked at the health club and it was always just comparing training schedules, ailments, injuries, racing calenders.  Besides that,, the only time I would see him was always at a marathon. For 5 years in a row, he spontaneously appeared in the last 6.2 of a run, just popped up out of nowhere, either passing me or watching as I ran by.  Sometimes I wonder if he was a ghost. 

Secretly, and at times not so secretly, we used each other to gauge our success. Both of us were trying to qualify for Boston and always just on the fringes, but I know that when I saw him and passed there was a sense of triumph, a boost to my morale, and every time he passed me I felt a little defeated, a little more trampled upon.

The mental games in a duel are the fun part. The self-talk that runs through my head goes something like this... "Crush them, crush them, " "I have an iron will and they do not. I am stronger, I am more fit, I will not let them win, I have more guts, more spirit," All of this rushes through me,  and in fact, I think "when I do pass them do so swiftly, just to send a message," and you can feel their momentum get sucked out of their body.  , this feeling of crushing another's spirit when you pass is not imagined It happens by telepathy, by body energy,

... and of course, the reason that I know this is from all the times I have often been another runners victim, on the other other end, looking at runners with envy, with fear even, since they seem to have more energy, and I did everything I could not to let any exhaustion show on my face or my stride, because , if they find out how dead tired I am they will be energized, and strike the fatal blow.  I have been passed with authority, and I have been passed with elbows dug into me, like some sort of Indy 500. Oh the mental games.

But, there has never been one who I have 'dueled' with that there isn't this amazing spiritual kinship I have.
Of course, at the finish, I know we are probably pretty equal to have finished so close, and all the other factors just came into play, and feel fortunate to have been with them.

Maybe this is just the Male ego and competitive Hunter/Gatherer nature, who knows, but much of this spirit has aged out of me.

APRIL 12th and 13th**


No, this isn't me, it's one of my Fav Red Wings Darren Helm
In other news: Its a national Holiday here!  The Hockey Playoffs Start!  I am both a hockey fan and a
Red Wing fan for life, every since being 5 years old and my dad took me to the Olympia. The Red Barn, as they say, and have been hooked ever since.  I don't miss a second.  And this is the first year in nearly 20 I am thinking they may not make it to the second round, but the puck drops at 8 pm tonight.  I DVR the games so I can watch when the kids are asleep cause I don't want to be disturbed. I will be watching in my Man-Cave, which just so happens to be full of my kids Barbie dolls and other pink related material.

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1 comment:

Detroit Runner(Jeff) said...

I use those mental games to get through races but instead what I do is focus on one person in front of me and try to keep with her/him and it takes my mind off the running. If I pass them, I pick a new person. Also, if they are too fast :(

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