It’s not always about the race…

It’s not always about the race…

by Steven M.

Steven childhood home in greyscale

Sunday morning I woke up a little later than usual. It was the Sunday after the 4th of July and we were all tired from the weekend’s festivities. I knew I had a 10 mile run to do and I was looking forward to it. My 70.3 race was in two weeks and this week would be vital to hit my targets I thought. I made a cup of tea and relaxed on the couch as the kids woke up one by one at grandma’s house where we were staying this weekend. Most mornings I am gone for work before they get up. They seemed so relaxed and without a care in the world.

When Jamie returned from her run mid-morning I was ready to go. Shoes, iPod, ET visor, Oakleys, and nutrition. It was mildly humid and warm but not yet hot. Off I went starting at an easy pace and planning to gradually build over the 10 miles. I decided I could likely run a long loop around town and pass by the home I grew up in and the mileage should be about exact. Jamie and I both grew up in Munster, a relatively small town in Indiana. We get back there periodically and I always notice what’s new.

As I ran I noticed that I was on a paved path for the first couple miles. Growing up there was no such path and we biked the streets as kids to get around. Progress! I turned the corner past the firehouse and saw the small park with the basketball hoop I used to play at for countless hours in middle school. You see, the high school basketball coach lived across the street from this park and I always assumed he’d be watching me and recruit me. I still haven’t heard from him. Just two more blocks down was the park I used to play at with all the neighborhood kids. The large wooden playground with splinters galore had been replaced with a much safer plastic playground. Next to that was a large grass area we used to play football and soccer at. It looks so small now in comparison. I ran by all my friends’ homes. Rachael (my mom used to safety pin a note to my back of what time I had to come home when I went there), Todd (we always got into trouble), Natalie (my toddler crush), Ryan (we would throw rocks at each other for fun), and John (the sports organizer of the hood).

Then I ran past my house. It was a small ranch home. Nothing special but it had a nice yard. I started thinking about how much fun we had as kids growing up in that house. It was small and we didn’t have a lot of money, but we were kids and didn’t know any better. We played outside all day and ran around the neighborhood. I had to laugh cause that house is the size of my current garage. Jamie and I have come a long way from this small Indiana town. All we had and all we needed to succeed was two sets of good parents.

I then ran up the hill across from the church. We used to take our BMX bikes (orange Schwinn predator for me, no helmets for any of us) and ride down the hill full speed though the grass dodging the trees. Looking back we were either very skilled or very lucky. I ran down Ridge Road and many of the stores and buildings are new but it still has the same feel in the air and as I am running I feel like a kid again. I ran past the pool we used to go to. It is now torn down and a large almost water park type of pool has replaced it. The hospital is next door and it’s double the size I remember from growing up.

As I completed my 8th mile I ran past the local park by my mom’s and was able to see my kids playing. I wonder what Naperville will look like to them when they return as adults. I wonder what they will appreciate about us as parents and about their hometown. I can see my 3 year old watching me run by and we wave at each other. I have to keep going cause Coach said 10 miles, not 8, so I whisk by! I think to myself that I am setting an example for her. She will grow up understanding the importance of an active and healthy lifestyle. It’s not because I tell her, but because she sees me doing it. I can envision her running as an adult and thinking about me and Jamie.

My last mile finally appears on my watch. It’s getting hot and more humid. I won’t stop or slow however. I reach mom’s house and run in for iced tea (after setting off the alarm and then explaining to the security company that I am legit). What a great run. It was a run through childhood lane. The conditions were getting worse outside but I hardly noticed. I felt accomplished.

You see, a race is just a race. It’s just one day. The little battles you fight for on a regular basis when nobody is watching is where you grow as a person and an athlete. There may not be a medal or cheering crowd, and my friends were not celebrating with me, but this was my day. This was my 10 miles of training and I won it. You see, when Coach Joe says its Sunny and 80 he really isn’t referring to the race day weather. He is referring to the environment you create in your own mind that only you can control and manipulate. It is the training runs, swims, and bikes that help you develop an understanding for Sunny and 80. It is not something to figure out at the start line.

It is not always about the race. Many times it’s about the 10 mile training run. Do you have it in you to fully understand and appreciate the process? When you do it will always be Sunny and 80, and when race day arrives you will be relaxed and confident; you already won the race two weeks ago with your 10 mile run.

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