At the risk of being perceived as a “running elitist”―something I was accused of being (not long ago) by a person close enough to me that I didn’t take it too personally―I want to touch on an area that has the potential to cast me in a negative light for some readers. But, the way I see it is if the message impacts even one other person’s life in a positive way, it will have been a risk worth taking. It has to do with my perspective on life―a perspective that was formed through my years of running and racing. More specifically it relates to the results I achieved as a consequence. To this day, despite my inability to run as I once did, those running results continue to color the way I approach life.
With so many years spent immersed in running and geared toward racing, it was perhaps inevitable that the running lifestyle would impact my view toward most anything I take on in life. For twenty eight years, year in and year out, I ran thousands of miles in preparation for races. I also kept a meticulous running log and recorded my racing times. I still have the old running logs and my race results; occasionally even cracking them open to savor and reminisce over what once was. For me, the running diaries represent more than just a narcissistic connection to a fading past; they provide inspiration for the challenges I am facing at the moment, and assuredly will face in the future. They remind me that for the fifteen minutes or three hours it took for me to complete a race or workout, it was me out there wringing out of my body all that it could give me. I kept a record of my finishing times and places, and I cherish it. It affirms that I was there; that I did it. It reminds me that I was once a fairly successful runner.
Some folks say I should let go of the past, and stop trying to relive the glory days. But, it’s important to me to keep those memories alive and at the forefront. I need that reminder, not so much that I can gloat over any previous running prowess or rub my times in someone’s face. I need those memories for me. Through the lens of hindsight I look back on those personal records and find encouragement and comfort when today’s going gets rough. I see the years of progressive improvement, and am reminded that the results I am currently seeking will eventually come if I just keep pressing forward. Through the journals, I see the novice that I once was, and re-experience the growth that took place. I see the miles upon miles of consistent training, the sacrifices and the hardships; all that preparation, and finally the results of all that striving.
I shudder to think what my life might be today if I’d left a mediocre string of running times and efforts to reflect back on. The recalling of those memories reminds me that if only for a brief period in time, I was a winner. Sometimes, it even gives me the crazy notion that if was able to attain that level of success in running just maybe I can be as accomplished in something else, too. Once again, I am energized and motivated. Sometimes I am even inspired. There’s so much to do, and so little time.
Call me an elitist, but I have an appreciation for running that was honed from participating at my body’s peak performance level. Running has instilled in me a belief that if I set my mind to something, anything and everything is possible. When the darkness creeps in, though, I have those old running logs and race results to remind me. I feel bad for the folks who don’t put forth the same effort. If you ask me, I think our greatest inspiration lies within us. We need only to nurture and grow it. It is the result of our perpetual striving. Later, when things get tough, as they always will, we can look back at our previous efforts and know that we have what it takes to overcome our challenges. Go ahead and call me a running elitist. Yep, I’m ok with that.