Thursday, July 28, 2016

Things I want to say about success

In high school, I was voted Most Likely To Succeed. I had no idea what that meant or even why people cared about things like that. Even then I had a feeling my definition of success was different than society's. But I had this moment at the Candlelight 12 hour race where I was like This is it. I have succeeded. I have done what I came here to do. It was not when I hit the 40 mile mark, or 50 miles or 55 miles. It was not that I ran farther than I ever thought possible and somehow didn't get a single blister or fall down or even hurt all that terribly much. It was when another runner said to me "You're the banana, right?" and then yelled "Banana!" every time he saw me on the course (in reference to my recent appearances volunteering at races while wearing a banana costume). And after the race, when we were all posting our race reports in the Facebook group and lovely and overly generous people made comments to me like "Your compliments and encouragement were as tireless as your run! You have a beautiful spirit!" and "Thanks for sharing the trail with the rest of us. You were so kind to everyone as you smoked us! We were actually all talking about how sweet you were out there." I cried while reading them because to me, this is what running is about. This is what life is about: encouraging and cheering, giving back to a community and a lifestyle that has given everything to me. Everything. Strength, happiness, a trail family, a husband.

I feel sometimes that I have disappointed people by not having any competitive nature whatsoever, like they have expected certain things from me and I have failed to deliver on them. Competition is great. If that's your thing. It is not mine. And I can't be what someone else wants me to be. I can only be what I am. I'm not the kind of person who wins races or even looks like a runner. I just really love to run.

Sure, I want to keep pushing myself, to grow better and faster and stronger. But achieving those things won't make me better than anyone else. It will just give me more ways to give back. The faster I get, the more people I could pace or join for training runs. The more race experience I get, the more knowledge I'll have to pass on to others. The more miles I run, the better equipped I will be to provide a home for all the poor, orphaned cookies of the world.

Often the focus of sports is on the winners. And rightfully so. They are incredible. But I think people forget that there are so many other kinds of success. Like the success of service, of being grateful for what we've been given and paying it forward, of giving attention to others instead of seeking it for ourselves.

After Candlelight, Eric texted me this picture and said "Did an edit on this. I like it now. So here."

I love it. It perfectly captures the beauty and the spirit and the blur of the event. But this seemingly simple text captures so much more than that. Eric and Sheila spent all night spectating at the race. They have spent so much time spectating at and directing so many other races, and working on trail maintenance. Eric has been injured and unable to run this summer (but hopefully now on the mend). I well remember how fucking frustrating it is to be injured, to not be able to do this thing you love doing. And still he's out there supporting everyone else, giving back so much to this community. This is the kind of stuff I love. Valone, Sean and Dave - the husbands out there supporting their wives in achieving their goals, as their wives have supported them. My favorite seaman Pete, and all the other military personnel, working hard all over the world in service of their country. That, my friends, is success. That's the kind of person I want to be.

Lyric of the moment: "I do it for the joy it brings. Because I'm a joyful girl. Because the world owes me nothing. And we owe each other the world. I do it because it's the least I can do. I do it because I learned it from you. And I do it just because I want to..." ~Ani DiFranco "Joyful Girl" 

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