The Race within the Race?


By Myrna P. Unger

“If you have the courage to start the race, you have the courage to finish.” These words were on the back of a racer’s shirt at the 2001 Gate River Run. I spotted the shirt at mile seven. It inspired me to keep pushing, keep hurting. It also made me realize that for whatever reason I started the race, wanted to race, had to race; it was the doing and the simple act of finishing that made it important.

Competition, in and of it, is healthy. It pushes us to be better. To reach and grow, to find the very best of who we are. It challenges us to find our edge, feel our limits, push ourselves, and then push some more. Sure it hurts. Some days, some races it hurts more than others, but when it’s over, rarely do we ever regret the fact that we competed, that we hurt, that we put it on the line. The rewards are significant.

Competition gives us more than just the “outcome” – it creates a pattern for living our life. Just as we chose to race, we can chose to live. Anything worth doing is worth doing well. Racing teaches us in this “throw away” society that anything worth starting is worth finishing, and finishing well. Sure its fun to get hardware. Who doesn’t like recognition? Everyone wants his or her 15 minutes of fame. Yet, the role of being a finisher, a good finisher, is so much more than just winning. It’s an example for our children. It’s a reminder for us. No one said life would be easy. No one said we would get everything we wanted, win every race, or be happy all the time. No one promised us life would be fair, that we would be the swiftest, the brightest, the best. Competition reminds us that how we compete is much more important than if we win.

During a difficult time, someone very special said, “Myrna, its not where we started that is important, but how we get to where we are going that matters.” In other words, how we run the race and that we finish will be remembered – not just the outcome. It doesn’t matter whether you run a 10-minute pace or a 5:30 pace, whether you finish first or last. It’s that you do your best, honor yourself and your competition, play fair and compete – and that you finish. When you step through the chute are you proud of the journey – not just the results? Did you put it on the line, did you do your best – did you win your race? Steve Prefontaine said, “Most people run a race to see who is fastest. I run a race to see who has the most guts.”

At mile 5 at the River Run, I overheard an unknown “Pre.” A male runner said to his female companion, ” I thought we were going to run an 8:30 pace, we are on an 8:10 pace.” She responded, ” I don’t care what pace we’re on I am just going to run until my guts fall out.” What a response! Maybe she had this racing thing all figured out. The how of it was clear to her – may I show that type of “guts” in my races, both on and off the roads?

I’ll meet you at the finish…