Last weekend was a gorgeous time to get outside and enjoy life. I'm sure our parks and trails were hotbeds of activity. Me? I spent my days at a track meet and a half marathon.
I absolutely love watching people dig down deep and realize they have more in them than they ever thought. The competitive spirit and the desire to improve is noble. Seeing people pursue their goals is an inspiration. It’s what keeps me coming back for more.
For many high schools around the area, this past weekend was the first round of qualifications for the state track and field championships. The great thing about track and field (and running in general) is that you can't play defense. You can only be as good as you can be. You can't (legally) do anything to stop anyone else from going after their goals and dreams. And they can't do anything to stop you.
Watching the next generation of athletes put themselves on the line and bare their souls with the hopes of improving themselves, helping their teams, and/or qualifying to the next round of competition made for some intense viewing. In fact, the most relaxed and confident people at the track were the competitors. The real drama occurred in the stands and on the infield. Watching parents, friends, and coaches live each and every step with their athletes showed just how far a dream’s roots spread.
Back when I was competing, the toughest part for me was the split second between set and the gun. After that, I was released to pursue my goals and dreams. I was in control of my own destiny. Now, as a coach (and husband), the toughest part is after the gun goes off. I want each of my athletes to have a perfect performance, but there's nothing I can do except cheer. The coach-athlete and parent-athlete interactions after a race are more real, more heartfelt, and more dramatic than anything Hollywood will put out this year—whether the athlete had a great race or came up just short. The raw emotions are awesome.
Some people claim that competition brings out the worst in people. I tend to focus on the other side of that coin. Competition also brings out the best in us. We can't let a few wayward souls ruin the joys of competing.
It was amazing to see athletes from opposing teams join each other for post-race cool down runs just moments after hammering away at each on the track. Many athletes clocked huge personal records that never would have been possible without the competition from the person next to them, without their opponents pushing them to dig deeper than they would have been able to go on their own. Competition tests our will—and the will of the person racing next to us. Competition teaches us how to handle adversity. We benefit from competition.
One young man who was favored to advance to state was tripped up part way through his race. He found himself lying facedown on the track as the rest of the field blasted away. Everything he had trained for over the past few months—his dreams—were about to disappear.
How would you have reacted?
As he lay there on the track, he knew there was no time to lament his fall. There was no time to question, “Why me?” He knew that if he were going to achieve his goal, he had to pick himself up and keep running. No pity parties allowed.
Determined, he rolled to his feet and started chasing down the field. The competitive spirit drove him to push his body to new levels. He caught the lead pack and, one lap later, crossed the finish line in second place. One moment he was sprawled out on the track; the next, he was holding a ticket to state.
Competition doesn’t allow sulking.
Competition is the common denominator that pushes us to see just how good we can be. It burns off the caps that hold us back, leaving a phoenix in their place. If you want to discover what kinds of dreams and goals you can accomplish, check out the FLEET FEET Race Calendar and Training Team pages. Step outside of your comfort zone. Challenge yourself—and others. We look forward to seeing the new you on the roads!
Good Luck and Happy Racing!
Tim Cary is FLEET FEET's Assistant Training Manager, coach of the FLEET FEET-sponsored Runnababez Elite team, and manager of the FLEET FEET Racing Team. Over his 20 years of coaching, Tim has coached athletes to three national team championships, five national individual championships, two national records, and numerous All-American and All-State honors. Click here to receive Tim's weekly article via email.