I came home from my 5k, feeling happy and proud. It was a good race and I got a new PR! I pulled into the garage, and as I got out of the car, my 7 year old came running up to me. She was jumping up and down with excitement, asking “Did you win?! Did you win?!”
My heart broke a little.
Not because I didn’t win, but that she had thought winning was what was important. My whole family has always been supportive of my running, they are usually at the finish line cheering me across! My 7 year old is at the age where she wants to be just like mom. She always wants to go running with me, she wants to wear Balegas and cute running skirts, she even does burpees with me! She’s watched my entire running journey and I’d always hoped she’d be learning good character traits from me, from watching my training and dedication. When she asked if I had won, I realized she still didn’t fully get it.
When I ran my last half marathon, she was there. She saw me train for months and she saw me cross the finish line. She also saw that I came in dead last. I explained to her that I didn’t mind, that I accomplished a goal I had set for myself, and that’s what I was proud of.
She seemed to get it, and just a couple of weeks later while I was running a 10k, she wrote me this note to give me at the finish line:
Translation- I love you mom even if you didn’t win the race. What will we eat at home? All I know is junk food, chips, candy and maybe drinks yum!
Some days she gets it, some days she doesn’t. And maybe it’s a difficult concept for a 7 year old to grasp? Let’s be honest, sometimes it’s hard for adults to grasp! So I’ll keep talking to her and I’ll keep setting the example, and I hope that one day she’ll learn these things about running:
1. Journey before Destination
I picked up that phrase from a book, and I love it! The way we achieve a goal is important. The journey is what shapes us, teaches us. The hundreds of miles I logged, the early morning runs through the snow and the rain and everything in between…that’s the real accomplishment. The race was just a victory lap.
2. Your Only Competition is Yourself
Sure it sounds cliche, but it’s true! Most of us aren’t going be on the podium, and even fewer of us will ever be elite, so the competition is truly just with ourselves. Striving to be better, run a smarter race, and maybe even getting a new PR.
3. Sometimes it’s ok to Quit
We’ve all heard the quotes: “no pain, no gain!” “Unless you puke, faint, or die…keep going!” That’s not what I want to teach my children. And really, it’s something I wish I had learned earlier! While the idea that there will be some level of discomfort to reach a goal is true, sacrificing your health is not worth it. When I ran my first half marathon, I ended up injuring myself by mile 6. I should have stopped. I should have admitted that finishing the race was not worth it, not worth making a small injury worse. But I didn’t…and I paid for it. I spent a long time healing and had to completely start from scratch when I was able to run again. Completing a goal is not worth sacrificing your health or your relationships. Family should always come first! Having a goal is good, but keep your perspective on what’s important.
Ultimately, I hope my children learn what running is really about. It’s about determination and discipline. It’s about joy and relaxation. It’s about community and support. As with all sports, there will always be a level of competition, but running can (and should!) be about so much more than that.