Monday, April 7, 2014

Who Shows Up

The above picture is of Dick Beardsley (leading the race) and Alberto Salazar in the 1982 Boston marathon.  The book "Duel in the Sun" describes this epic race along with their training - and how their lives were changed afterwards.  The two men ran within a few feet of each other for the entire last 10 miles of the race.  Look up the race on youtube - it is incredibly exciting.  Beardsley was the underdog - but he had focused all of his training on winning Boston.  Salazar was the better runner - but he may have been a little overconfident - as he had raced against the great Henry Rono in a 10k the previous weekend. 

Salazar ended up winning - although he was so severely dehydrated that he was taken to a hospital and given six liters of water intravenously.  His career started a slow and steady decline after this race.  Dick Beardsley never ran as fast either.  Ten years later Beardsley was convicted of forging prescriptions because of a drug habit.

On Saturday I ran a very different race "in the sun."  It was called Run the Runway - a 10k at the Scottsdale airport.  I actually ended up winning the race.  I was happy with my time - but it certainly wasn't fast enough to win most races.  It was a new race and there was no prize money - so none of the local hot shots showed up.

Don't get me wrong - winning a race is still a lot of fun.  And I understand that most people don't ever get to experience what it feels like winning a race.  But it really is mostly about who shows up.  This isn't false modesty - but merely from the experience of getting my butt kicked many more times than I've kicked butt.

The experience started to make me think about how winning is a lot of fun - but that it doesn't really teach us much about ourselves.  If I won every race - how would I ever grow or get better?  It would actually make racing very dull.  Running is after all just about putting one foot in front of the other as quickly as possible.  If it weren't for the unknown of competition - it wouldn't be worth doing.

The truth is that most distance races, from the Olympics to your local 5k, actually are pretty boring.  There is usually one person who is simply much better than the other runners.  And with distance running - there is no subjectivity - so, the person who is in better shape usually pulls away - unless they make some terrible error in judgment.

The same is true in life.  Whether you are competing for a job or really anything - most times there really is someone who is "best for the job."  Many times we focus on a direction in our lives and then, like a pool ball heading for a pocket, get knocked a different direction by something or someone completely out of nowhere.  In our lives it's also about who shows up. 

We all come to a point where we have to decide whether to view getting knocked sideways as a detour to our ultimate destination, or as a sign from the universe that we need to go a different direction entirely.  This is both what makes life frustrating and interesting.  We are not in complete control of our destiny.  The world has plans for us that we can not possibly predict or even prepare for.

What makes the "duel in the sun" a great race is that both men were so determined to not let the other get in the way of their dream that they put themselves into great peril - and eventually harmed their bodies to the point that they were never the same runners.  But to admit defeat wasn't possible for either of them at the time.  Their struggle that day turned into over a decade of internal struggle for both men.  Salazar is now America's most successful distance running coach.  Beardsley is a motivational speaker and helps others to overcome their addictions.

For me, the lesson to all of this is that pain is the only real teacher.  Every time that we have a difficult experience we need to ask ourselves - what is it that I've learned?  Usually we get caught up in asking the universe "why"?  The answer is usually - "because you can't help others until you've experienced what it means to really struggle."  And in my opinion - that is what we're on this earth to do - help each other to thrive in what is often a cold and lonely world.

We often play the if only this happened (or didn't happen) I would be happy "game."  It is a waste of time.  Our lives played out the only way they could have.  Usually when we play the "if only" game - it's because we have knowledge now that we didn't have at the time that we made a mistake.  We blame ourselves for not knowing something that we could only know because we've had that experience.  In the end we have to learn to be thankful for every experience and person who we've encountered - and although it's hard - be even more thankful for the people and experiences that brought us pain in our lives.  Because they taught us something we needed to learn in order to become who we were destined to be.

Monday -  3000y swim (1 hour)
 Tuesday - 36 mile bike (2 hours)
Wednesday - Morning: 3000y swim (1 hour)
Afternoon: 6 mile run (45 minutes)
Thursday - 9 mile run (1 hour)
Friday - 30 mile bike (2 hours)
Saturday -  11 mile run - including 34:11 10k (1.25 hours)
Sunday - 4km swim (1.25 hours)
Total - Swim: 3.25 hours Bike: 4 hours Run: 3 hours (10.25 hours)

No comments: