There's a guy who runs or spins most mornings at the YMCA at which I work out. Because of back and foot issues, he considers himself more of a short distance runner. And he really works at that. If I'm looking for a challenging speed workout over a 4-6 mile distance, he's a good running partner. While he runs shorter distances, he runs them at a pretty good pace.
This morning, as we discussed our workouts, I pointed out that this weekend's half-marathon concerned me far less than the upcoming triathlon. Though the distances in the triathlon are much shorter, the swim is still a major hurdle. As I talked about the possibility of coming out of the water dead last, he commented that dead last would still put me into a very small group called triathlete. He also pointed out that I'm already in another small group called marathoner.
It was a good reminder. Yesterday, I struggled with how to put into words the challenge of balancing competition, personal achievement, and personal improvement. My friend put it into a good perspective, helping me to remember that the first and most important thing is that just showing up and running the race is a major accomplishment.
The personal battle with improvement and beating personal records will always be there. But the gentle reminder to keep things in proper perspective is important. Sometimes, it's better to just leave the toys at home, and run for the sake of running.