Looking Back

“It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.” -George Sheehan

I’ve heard it said that in running you should never look back.  On the treadmill – if you’re like me, the slightest variation in movement on the mill will cause me to trip and be launched halfway across the room.  In training – it can only serve as a source of discouragement if the only people you see behind you are walkers, sometimes even casual walkers.  And in racing – stay focused on the goal – to finish and finish strong, the only person you have to beat is yourself and you already know just where you are!

Sometimes, when I’m training or racing, I have to work really hard at not looking back.  I have to constantly remind myself that the only person I need to worry about is myself.  So what if I come in last?  I came in far ahead of those people that never even got out of bed at 4:45 a.m. on race day or who passed on social night with the girls to get a long run in before dark.

I have to constantly remind myself that I am my fiercest competition and more often than not, the competitor in me tells the runner in me that I want to quit.  Quit running.  Quit training.  Quit getting up early.  Quit racing.  Quit it all.

Those words are pretty painful for me to say out loud – or to see in print, and it is when I say them or see them again that something happens, something changes.

I do look back.  I look back at everything I have accomplished in such a short amount of time.  I look back through my running scrapbook of bib numbers, photographs, journal entries, and race memorabilia and see the pages dedicated to my first half-marathon in shrine-like fashion.  I look back through my training logs and see the first time I ran four miles and how much it hurt.  I look back at my race medals and smile because sometimes I can’t believe they are really mine.  I look back at my journal from a little over one year ago and see where I penned in distress the sorrow I felt at not being able to run one mile.  I look back to my family and friends and see how proud they are of me.  I look back at my trainer and see; after months of training, how proud he was that I ran my first mile without stopping (or crying!).  I look back at my first MIT meeting and see how I vowed to run 13.1 miles, and I see that I did – more than once.  I look back at old pictures of me and see the happier, healthier, lighter person I am now.

And then, after I get done looking back at these things, I once again start looking ahead.  Because any step I take now – running or otherwise – is a million miles from where I once was.  I had a slower than usual run?  Keep running.  I had a bad day at work?  Keep running.  I’m tired and sore?  Keep running.  I would rather sleep in on Saturdays?  Keep running.  Today just isn’t my day?  Keep running, keep running, and keep running.  At least try – nine times out of ten once my shoes are on I’m out the door and if I’ve done that much, I might as well finish.  And I’ve never, ever – not even sort of that one time – been sorry that I did.

Tomorrow is a new day.  A new goal.  A new commitment.  And I have a lot to look forward to:  A race in Hannibal, Missouri, the place where I was born; my mom’s first 5K ever; a two-person relay; a new half-marathon in the fall; and 26.2 in October.  So I’ll keep running ahead to these things and more and every once in awhile, I’ll take a look back to see just how far I’ve already come.



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