You know I got to thinking the other day. The real reason we run and race is for the stories. Whether it’s to brag about our accomplishments, play one-upsmanship with your college buddies, tell tales of woe, tell of death marches and enduring untold miseries, recount the deafening roar of the Wellesley Girls, or tell of bodily function melt downs; it’s all about a story.
All this running we do. All this racing we do. We set goals. We pursue them. We take months in preparing for some big races like marathons. We take weeks for others. We travel locally to nationally to internationally to race. We do everything we can to get that workout in even when we’re working long hours or on business trips.
Oh yes, of course it’s also about accomplishing something or succeeding at a goal. Indeed there is all that. But in the end it’s still about telling the tale. We tell the tale of our workouts. We tell anyone who will listen about our rigorous (or not so rigorous) approach to getting ready for a race. We regale friends and family with enduring -20F and 110F degree runs. Everyone has to hear how we ran in a monsoon; at 9000 feet; through a snowstorm or torrential downpour.
I think part of telling non-running people about our running escapades is watching reactions. It’s fun. It’s fun being seen as different, or crazy (in kind of a good way). The recognition from these people is special because we and they know that we are doing something “they” wouldn’t imagine doing in most cases. We become a star in a way.
After boring our non-running friends of course we endeavor to spin tales with our running cohorts. We talk about the big races that took us five miles to finally run at our race pace. We brag about stalking our prey finishing hard and passing our rival in the final meters.
It’s far worse when your brothers or sisters are runners. Then it becomes a “who can top this” story telling time. Everyone tells their apocryphal tales of near death experiences, wrong way turns, falls, bodily functions issues, near misses, records set, and PRs run.
Some of the best times in my life are recounting races and racing with my brother Jim. It’s funny how the same race generates a more spectacular story each time it is retold. And of course my version is always more accurate. I did beat him at the Clinton 10k and at Boston.
In my eBook on goal setting, “Screw the Goals Give me the Donut” I have a portion dedicated to failing at goals. I relate to Christina the Cynic the time I DNFed (dropped out) of two races in one afternoon. And despite the frustration of the day, it did not define me. And more importantly it spawned a story I have fun retelling of the day I ran with the Kenyans from UTEP. Even in epic failures there are great stories. This also becomes a way to cope with disappointments. It can be part of the healing process because you disarm the event. I mean come on, what idiot runner stops a seven-and-a-half lap race a lap short because he (I) couldn’t count to seven?
You see, a goal is accomplished in a moment. It’s really achieved only at that instant you cross the line and the clock stops. If you keeled over dead 10 meters from the finish – you never had a record setting run regardless of how fast you were up to that point. Got it? The PR, the Boston Qualifier and that World Record is set the instant you are done. It takes only a split second to actually SET that record. Given that, what is everything about leading up to that and after that point in time? It’s about the story.
Not all stories have happy endings yet they can still be very satisfying. It has to be in that satisfaction of having lived a good story that we don’t get overly down and depressed over unachieved goals. We’re living a story. That is part of the fun in pursuing goals, trying to beat our rivals and qualify for Boston. Win, lose or DNF, tell the story. It makes us who we are.