The Race is Not Always to the Swift, but to Those Who Seek Inspiration
I don’t know why, but I haven’t run a race in a very long time. I ran a marathon in 1991 shortly after the Gulf War started and we wore yellow ribbons to show our support for the troops. For Veteran’s Day this year, I decided to run a 5K sponsored by a local ROTC unit in honor of Russell B. Rippetoe, Captain, United States Army. I ran because the race caught my eye as being for a great cause, and I imagined it didn’t get the same sort of support other charity races muster.
I have never been a competitive runner, but I found the pre-race butterflies were there – predictably. As soon as the race began, I was in “race mode.” My thoughts instantly went to George Sheehan – runner turned philosopher. He was a strong advocate for testing oneself through racing, and I had forgotten how much different racing is from training hard. I had no illusion about placing in my age group or otherwise. I had a time in mind I wanted to beat, and it was me against me out there.
Sheehan penned an essay called, “The Beauty of the Race,” and wrote, “At the half-mile mark, you settle for a pace that keeps breathing just bearable. Everything makes a difference. Every change in footing-grass, cinder, dirt, or stone. A grade that would escape a surveyor adds its toll. The environment occupies you completely. Wind speed and direction, temperature and humidity can either aid or hinder.” This state of hyper-awareness, yet complete focus, is the part I missed. I was testing myself physically and mentally, and thought of nothing but maintaining a hard pace. I wondered why I had avoided this personal test for so long. It wasn’t about finishing in the top ten percent – it was about pushing myself to develop a deeper understanding of my own place in the world.
After the race, I saw a man enthusiastically cheering runners on to the finish. It was Brad Gallup, the Colorado point of contact for Colorado Hire Patriots. Speaking of “place in the world,” the reason I decided to race again was to support our service men and women, and the veterans looking for their place in the civilian world. Displaying a yellow ribbon is nice, but helping veterans make the transition from the military is truly heroic. I can’t wait to see what will inspire me at my next race!