If you ask me, I think it’s human nature to fall into the trap of doing what others expect of us. Usually it’s because we want others to like us. Often, it’s simply because we don’t want to rock the proverbial boat. Sometimes, we may even go against our original inclinations in order to fit in or satisfy others. Consider these next two examples―in some ways they’re different, in others they’re alike. Regardless, the end results are quite similar. For starters, let’s say you and your significant other have a disagreement and later you confide in your friends, coworkers, or whoever. As surely as it snows in winter, you’ll get these folks two cents on the matter―this, despite their own failed relationship track records. In fact, if you were to dig a little into their personal lives, inevitably, you’d find some have histories filled with a plethora of broken relationships and shattered dreams. Let’s just say, it’s probably best to be on your guard, since most people feel compelled to offer their own brand advice, regardless of their own tattered pasts in dealing with similar circumstances.
Nearly fifteen years into my running and racing career, I fell into a trap―one created by a running friend’s good intentions. It took place at a small race in a town about twenty miles away from my usual stomping grounds. I’d bumped into my friend before the event, and he’d introduced me to a group of local runners from the area. We’d jogged up to them, and after brief introductions, my buddy had pronounced that I was the guy who was going to win the race. A somewhat awkward silence then followed, after which we’d bid our adieus, and wished one-another good luck. As we continued our warm up, my friend motioned toward a couple of high school runners and told me to “watch out for him”. Off-handedly he mentioned that one of the guys was a high school track standout, having recently gone down state to represent his school in the 800 meters.
As anticipated, when the race began, the high school runners sprinted into the lead. Afraid of losing contact with them, and against my better judgement, I matched their efforts; this, despite the fact that the pace was much faster than I would normally have run at the beginning of a 5k race, or any other race for that matter. A half mile or so into the race, one of the runners backed off and fell behind the first runner and myself. The first runner and I continued to pull away from him, with the rest of the field fading behind us. We passed the first mile marker in 4:47. I was running 10 to 15 seconds faster than my usual pace, and was already beginning to feel the effect of the effort when, about a half mile later, the runner next to me suddenly slowed to a jog. I was startled, but continued striving to maintain the pace. I glanced over my shoulder in time to see that the other high school runner (the one who’d initially slowed down) was now passing his friend and beginning to close on me. I fought to remain on pace, even as I felt my body succumbing to the effort. The runner continued to close, until he was running off of my shoulder.
Instead of passing, the kid settled in behind me, as I gamely clung to the pace. Later, as we approached the finish-line, the runner surged, passed me, and won by ½ of a second. Thirty seconds went by and his buddy crossed the finish-line. A minute later, and the rest of the field began piling in. After finishing the race, my friend came up and he asked if I’d won. I told him what’d happened, how I’d gone out with the one runner and how he’d suddenly fallen off the pace. My friend asked me who the guy was, and I pointed him out. “That’s not the kid I was telling you about” my buddy said. “The guy who beat you was the guy I said to watch out for”. As it turned out, I’d been set up by the two kids―the one taking the pace out hard, so as to wear me out. The other had paced himself, content to hold back until the finish line came into view.
Now, I’m not saying I would necessarily have won the race had I not gotten caught up in my friend’s “good intentions”. But, I think you’ll agree there’s something to be said for running your own race. Doing so will put you in a better position when it’s time to kick.