Pounding along, heart fit to burst, legs screaming and a voice leaping out of my throat with the immortal words “I can’t”. But I could. 500 metres to go and one last surge as I push to the finish. It’s 9am on a freezing cold Saturday morning and I’m hauling my spent carcass up the channel for finished runners, to give in my number and get my time. I’ve knocked 10 seconds off my personal best. Now there were hundreds of runners in front of me and hundreds behind me but it wasn’t about them, or how my time compared to theirs. That was irrelevant. Some were twenty years my junior, some were professional athletes, some had legs like giraffes, some were in it only for the gentle shuffle and a chat. Each had their own agenda and parameter for what they wanted to get out of putting one foot in front of the other for five thousand meters.
I took up running a year ago. I didn’t want to go long distances; I found it boring, it took up too much time, and gave me injuries. What I set myself was the goal to run 5K as quickly as I could for my age and fitness. The more I did it, the fitter I became and the faster I got. It was a definitive goal and it’s a gratifying when in the rest of life it’s all so much more amorphous than setting yourself up to do something and being given actual numbers that prove you have improved. A month ago my PB was 29 minutes 22 seconds. Last week it was 28’ 22 and this week it was 28’13. Not particularly fast but better than before. That is a measurable progression. It’s satisfying to shave off those few extra seconds. Striving, training and achieving. There is a simple equation in that which shows numerical results.
But how do we translate that into real life with its shifting targets and challenges? What can we learn from the concept of a runner’s PB that is useful for everyday living? What can we teach our children about reaching for their own potential that is not about comparing or competing in a way that depletes their sense of self-worth?
Some people thrive on competition. Beating others gets their juices flowing and ups their game. But for the rest of us that cult of comparison and competition simply lowers our self-esteem, dampens our self-confidence and quells our spirit. When you compare yourself with someone else and find yourself lacking, you experience a sinking sense of defeat. Or, if you beat someone your chest puffs up in direct ratio to your swelling ego; a balloon to be popped next time someone better than you trundles along. School is a battleground for competition and the triumphant bask in glory while the runners up and the no hopers, trail in their wake; in the shadow of the exultant winners’ prizes and trophies… READ MORE in D.A.D magazine