08 Nov The race is not always to the swift, but to those who seek inspiration

I don’t know why, but I haven’t run a race in a very long time. I ran a marathon in 1991 shortly after the Gulf War started and we wore yellow ribbons to show our support for the troops. For Veteran’s Day this year, I decided to run a 5K sponsored by a local ROTC unit in honor of Russell B. Rippetoe, Captain, United States Army. I ran because the race caught my eye as being for a great cause, and I imagined it didn’t get the same sort of support other charity races muster.

I have never been a competitive runner, but I found the pre-race butterflies were there – predictably. As soon as the race began, I was in “race mode.” My thoughts instantly went to George Sheehan – runner turned philosopher. He was a strong advocate for testing oneself through racing, and I had forgotten how much different racing is from training hard. I had no illusion about placing in my age group or otherwise. I had a time in mind I wanted to beat, and it was me against me out there.

Sheehan penned an essay called, “The Beauty of the Race,” and wrote, “At the half-mile mark, you settle for a pace that keeps breathing just bearable. Everything makes a difference. Every change in footing-grass, cinder, dirt, or stone. A grade that would escape a surveyor adds its toll. The environment occupies you completely. Wind speed and direction, temperature and humidity can either aid or hinder.” This state of hyper-awareness, yet complete focus, is the part I missed. I was testing myself physically and mentally, and thought of nothing but maintaining a hard pace. I wondered why I had avoided this personal test for so long. It wasn’t about finishing in the top ten percent – it was about pushing myself to develop a deeper understanding of my own place in the world.

After the race, I saw a man enthusiastically cheering runners on to the finish. It was Brad Gallup, the Colorado point of contact for Colorado Hire Patriots. Speaking of “place in the world,” the reason I decided to race again was to support our service men and women, and the veterans looking for their place in the civilian world. Displaying a yellow ribbon is nice, but helping veterans make the transition from the military is truly heroic. I can’t wait to see what will inspire me at my next race!

Article first published as The Race is Not Always to the Swift, but to Those Who Seek Inspiration on Technorati.

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