I realize we aren’t all runners, but hear me out on this.
So the other night I was running on the indoor track at Central Michigan University’s Student Activity Center. It’s where I run in the winter. Not that I mind the cold outside, but it keeps my MS-numbed feet and me from running/slipping/falling on the ice and snow.
Nine laps make a mile. The middle lane of the three-lane track is intended for runners. And this time of year, the SAC track is packed with college coeds eager to sculpt their bodies into spring break shape.
This is my fifth winter running at the SAC, and I had an epiphany the other night when a runner blew past me at lightning-fast speed.
In previous years I would have trashed talked him in my mind, calling him a showoff and wannabe and thinking how damn funny it’d be if he tripped and fell. Nothing hurt but his pride, but that’d be enough vindication for me.
But this year a kinder, gentler Dan had a more mature thought about this man who sprinted by me as though I was standing still. Rather than hate him, I truly saw myself in him. Because that was me … just two days earlier. I was the one blowing by everyone else.
Two days earlier I was speed training. Sprinting half a lap, jogging for one. Sprinting half a lap, jogging for one. I wasn’t showing off. Not entirely a wannabe. I was running my race. For me.
So many times with MS and life, it’s easy to compare myself to how and what other people are doing. Who would have thought a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses attitude could work its way into living with a chronic illness?
This is where I’m grateful I got into running because the lessons I’ve learned there have helped me to mentally move forward in my life with MS.
When I enter a race, the success of my race is not determined by how I finish overall or within my age group. Rather, how does it compare to my personal best time? My personal best time.
Oh sure, it’s great to place among other competitors. But even then, are we satisfied? One time several years ago I honestly placed first in my age group. Rather than fully celebrate first place, I downplayed it and made excuses (“But there were only two in my age group!”).
I imagine I would have been more proud and perhaps even bragged about it had it’d been a personal best.
So I try my best to focus on what I’m doing in running and in life and compare it me. My dreams. My abilities. My circumstances. My goals. My personal best.
And how my personal best compares to everyone else is either excused by my disease – “Yeah, but I have MS” – or an added point of pride – “Yeah! AND I have MS.”
Know yourself, and run your race.