Exit, Exit, Enter

Run(ning) away from Tennis: How sports lead to a better you
March 29, 2016, 8:47 am
Filed under: Misc Thoughts | Tags: , , , , ,


The race

The guns fire and the first corral is off. These are the runners that have been runners their whole life – their genetics fortuned them the perfect leg-to-torso length ratio and physiology for long distance running. They likely have tripled or even quadrupled the 30miles a week I was running to train for this half marathon over the past few weeks.

This is my first half-marathon and the doubt was setting in. I am in corral 3 for my first 13.1 mile race – noted by the blue color of my bib. It is only fitting that I am branded with a unique number like innocent cattle being led to… well, you know. As the group of runners I am shepherded with approaches the starting line, I wonder if my heart will stop beating so fast. Most of all though I am wondering if the past 4 months of training will pay off in elation, or agony, or all of the above.

1 mile through and we’re over a bridge for our first major leg of the run. I am trying to run slower than I want, like they say to do in those articles for beginner runners, but the adrenalin is really kicking in.

4 miles and I guess I’ll speed up a bit.. cus I feel good. 6 miles.. nearly halfway through and feeling really good. 10mi – I’ve run this far in my long runs during training and so no biggie.

12.1mi and the last mile is ahead of me. This is a relatively big race and so the spectators are really excited for me to finish – just like I am, I think.

0.5mi … 0.4mi… 500meters… and my jets are on! The last 100meters and I start collecting myself for what I’ll do for the photo finish. Maybe I’ll throw up shaka (like we do in Hawaii) or I’ll jump or.. let’s just finish. As I step over the line my training comes to a point.The hours running in 20º Michigan weather and snow and sleet… had prepared me for this 65º Florida day.

The race critique

I am elated and agonized and all of the above. The pace I had picked up at mile 4 was really good, but I probably could have done better. I mean, I had been an athlete my whole life – why couldn’t I have made a sub 01:40 or even a sub 01:30 half-marathon time? There was no cheating myself out of it. This was great! This was different than anything I had experience before.

Running away from tennis

Years of playing tennis forces you to drudge on in this continually self-critical journey towards… nothing, really.

Fortunately, line calls in running are vastly different than line calls in tennis. There are no opponent challenges when you get over the finish line after running 13.1 miles. They have a picture – and a pose – and so you have proof. When you cross it, you score. The match is over. This competition is between you and you alone.

Growing up being engrossed in sports, this endorphin high that you get at the end of a race or win can cut both ways. A win or victory can at times make you euphoric, and yet at other times it can bite at you with a sense that you just could have done better – had you not missed a shot or choked up a lead.

Sports and competition and every day life?

Sports enable you to be perpetually self-critical – but this can cut both ways. Running for example is a battle primarily against yourself. Your time was good, but could it have been better? You ran 30 miles this week, but in 2 months you could be running 50+ miles per week! Imagine your progress then? As I said, it can cut both ways. How does this continual climb towards a forever changing goal translate to the world outside of fitness?

It could enable you to always be improving, always tweaking habits and mentalities so as to always be your best self.

Can this psyche of never settling – never quite being happy – be sustainable? Can you always be better than yourself? Could this psychological framing actually allow you the happiness and contentment that results from being at peace with your current self?

I’m not sure.

But, I am sure that I am going to keep striving for that Personal Record – that race time, that level of fitness, that level of professional and personal maturity. And no one is going to challenge that.


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