DC thrives on the perception of “success.” What do you do? Where do you work? Who do you know? Where did you go to school? How many letters do you have after your name? How much money do you make? How do your answers to these things compare to mine? All of these questions seem to play into the general evaluation of how successful one is. I think we’re all guilty of thinking that way to some extent, whether about ourselves or others. I had a few hours to really think about this on Sunday morning. Running without the distraction of my iPod allows me to fixate on such random topics.
The Cherry Blossom 10 Miler was going to be the first race where I actually set a goal as far as time. I have really gotten into running over the last year and a half and about four months ago it seemed perfectly within my reach, with proper training, to run this race at a sub-ten-minute mile clip. I wanted to crack the ten minute average mark, if only by one second. Sporty goals of any sort are a novelty to me as I was always the kid who abhored physical education class and walked around the track instead of running. Also, I’m stubborn and don’t settle well for anything less than “success,” so this was a big deal for me.
Life intervened. For a variety of reasons not within the purview of this little corner of the interwebs, I wasn’t really able to train for a good two months. Starting again was a tough road to hoe. I ran an 8k last month because one of my best friends was doing it and it was more of a struggle than I cared to admit to myself at the time. When I went to pick up my race shirt and number on Saturday, I briefly considered switching to the 5 mile run/walk. I had been running pretty frequently since that 8k, but still, 10 miles? Forget making my goal, which had long since gone by the wayside, I wasn’t sure I would even be able to finish the race. The obstinate side of my personality wouldn’t allow the switch, however.
That is how I found myself lined up with 12,000 other people bright and early Sunday morning, thinking I would probably have to walk some of the course and might not even finish — which got me thinking about what success means. I had a goal once upon a time, that beautiful sub-ten minute average pace, which wasn’t relevant anymore. Why was I even there if I knew I wasn’t going to achieve what I had originally set out to do? Why not just rest and aim for a fall race instead? Why bother risking the ultimate “failure” of that little “did not finish” immortalized forever in results posted online?
For me, it goes back to how one defines success. I had already felt like a failure, ever so briefly, back when the whole no training thing started. When I was finally able to get back to it, I felt it even moreso because it seemed like a waste of time when three miles was rough. This thing I had once embraced and loved doing was something I considered giving up on because I felt like I wasn’t doing it well enough in comparison to some imaginary standard — like I was a failure at it. Ultimately, I settled upon the idea that success is bringing what you have to what is before you (chosen or imposed) and making of it what you can. Success on Sunday, for me, was not when I crossed the finish line but rather when I crossed the starting line.