Run your race

Run your race

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It was only 20 minutes after the race had started that the first runner crossed the finish line. My son and I stood there at the end of the route wrapped in winter coats on a Sunday afternoon in April. Two of our foursome–Dad/Husband and Sister/Daughter–were out on the course somewhere and we weren’t expecting them for at least another 15 minutes or more. But my son insisted on seeing the first person to cross the finish line and wanted to keep watching as the timer ticked away while more and more runners crossed the line.

Over the next several minutes, young and old, women and men finished the race. Right around the 38-minute mark, our people came into view. My daughter was struggling through some discomfort as my husband jogged next to her, watching her carefully and closely.

Weeks ago, when my husband decided he wanted to run this particular 5K, he asked my daughter if she wanted to run with him. She’s part of a running program at school and is training for another 5K in May. (I’m her running buddy for that race and I’ve been training, too. More on that later.) I was proud of her for saying yes and taking on the challenge.

While our two runners recovered with bathroom breaks and fruit and water, more people crossed the finish line. Some had been designated as walkers from the start and I was surprised at how quickly some of those power walkers finished the course. They weren’t far behind some of the runners.

Almost an hour after the race started, when the organizers had already started packing up, the final group of walkers took their last steps on the course. They received a medal just like all the other entrants. They completed the course, no matter how long it took.

We hung around long enough to hear the results and see who received awards for various age groups. Some won awards by default because they were the only ones registered in their category. The fastest times in some categories were slower than the fastest times in others because of age. And the fastest walkers logged almost the same times as some of the slowest runners but none of that seemed to matter to the participants.

As the awards were handed out, there was a spirit of cooperation more than competition. Those who had been in the race encouraged each other and celebrated each other.

Honestly, it was a little bit hard to be on the sidelines.

I’m in the middle of my training, doing more running than I ever think is possible when I start out but not quite ready to run a 5K yet. But watching so many people accomplish what I’m working for was inspiring. My son and I are planning to join the race next year.

I could make all kinds of spiritual applications with this story, and maybe you’ll do that for yourself, but what I really wanted to remember and take away from this experience was the idea of participation.

It’s easier to sit on the sidelines. To be a spectator. To watch everyone else do the work. But it’s not as satisfying. Not really. So many things hold us back from participating. To name a few: fear (of failure, of injury, of looking foolish); lies (you can’t do that, you’re not the right type of person); required change (how we spend our time or money, what we do or don’t do in the course of a day). These are just a few reasons we don’t participate in something meaningful. Perhaps the most obvious one is we’re just too busy, sometimes with the wrong things.

I’m not saying everyone has to go out and run a 5k. Some people will walk it. For others, it will be a different activity. Maybe there’s a place in the community or church that needs some extra hands. Maybe you won’t like it or maybe you’ll be bad at it. That’s okay. There’s always something else to try.

The point is to get involved in something and if it’s not the right thing, then try something else. And if you’re not sure where to start, ask someone for help. You don’t have to win an award. You don’t have to be the best. And you don’t have to compete with people who are younger or stronger or faster.

Cooperate. Participate. Or as one shoe company has put it for years: Just do it.

Oh, and good news! You get to decide what the “it” is.

Lisa Bartelt About Lisa Bartelt

Lisa has been writing stories for more than a decade, first for newspapers and now as a freelancer, blogger and budding novelist. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two kids. Read more at her blog, Beauty on the Backroads.

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