While waiting in line at Starbucks yesterday morning, I overheard a conversation between a teenager and a middle aged woman. I imagine this was a college admissions interview and the woman was an alumna and the young man a high school senior. While the senior was talking about his experience running cross country, I was struck by two things he said and how they apply to so much more than running.
Keep your own pace
He said that in cross country it’s important to find your own pace and keep your own pace. That when someone passes you it’s very tempting, almost innate, to want to run faster to catch up with him and then pass him, but you have to know your own pace and not use up all of your energy in one burst sprinting to beat the person in front of you. That you need to figure out a pace that you can maintain and just keep it at that.
You don’t have to be first to win
The teen also said that in cross country, you don’t have to be the first to win. That simply hitting a personal best is an accomplishment in itself.
I think I may have gotten tears in my eyes as I heard this, thinking “wow, this is a great reminder for life.” It can be so easy to compare yourself to friends, coworkers, people from high school or college that you’re not friends with in real life but are friends on Facebook. If they’re getting married, buying a house, having kids, getting promoted, getting a Master’s degree, traveling, buying x, y, or z. And when we see people “passing” us it’s easy to want to sprint to catch up, and to put pressure on ourselves to find a boyfriend or buy a home or whatever. But doing so only expends unnecessary energy. It feels so much better if you’re doing it at your own pace, not sprinting to get to catch up to the person in front of you. And remember that just because you’re not the first doesn’t make crossing the finish line any less significant.