Sunday, October 20, 2013

On Competition (Twenty Six Point Two for Luke)

Far too often we measure things by success or failure: binary; black and white; ‘if I haven’t done x, then I have done nothing’.  This frame of mind is disgusting and toxic to me.  So many adopt it in setting goals or benchmarks; in measuring themselves.  It leaves them two possible outcomes: they measure up, or they don’t.  On the morning of October 13th, as I got myself situated in my second wave starting corral of the Chicago Marathon with a scheduled 8 am departure, most all of the chatter surrounding me related to needing to finish by a certain time, or needing to finish at all.  Before so many of these runners gathered in Grant Park, within so many minds there was a single concern that dwarfed all others: crossing a line set out in front of them at what might be the most arbitrary distance I can imagine.  But that was before.  The chatter I was hearing was the result of remnant worry and nervous energy.

At its best, competition is a beautiful and healthy thing that inspires us to study, focus, adapt, and progress.  The results can often be attributed to a few, but the true benefits are completely mutual.  At it’s worst, however, it is adversarial in nature: cut-throat and maybe even malicious, breeding resentment, sabotage, or hate.  For better or worse it seems to lie at the foundation of this country’s core, at the system level.  If you get thousands of people together and ask them to make their way along from the same points A and B, we will call it a race.  As long as we are able to rank everyone involved and determine the person at the top of that list, we will.  It doesn’t surprise me.  For some involved it represents most, if not all, of their motivation.  That’s just fine for them.  There will always be those who measure themselves against others, but the resounding energy I felt that morning was the result of thousands realizing that the unique strength that they had access to for extra propulsion that day would come from the support of their peers.

It was as ideal a day as one could ask for that Sunday.  Temperatures rose in to the mid sixties with beautiful clear skies.  A truly remarkable Kenyan named Dennis Kimetto set a record for the course.  Myself, I felt the spirits of the thousands of runners coming to grips with the fact they were their only opponents.  I also must extend my gratitude to the city of Chicago with its countless volunteers and spectating supporters.  They make events like these exemplify the pinnacle of competition.  Beyond all of that, though, my deepest love and thanks goes out to my extended family for supplying a roof over my head, and more support than I could’ve ever expected.  They very recently adopted an adorable infant named Luke in to their unbelievably loving circle.  That’s the kind of inspiring stuff that can drive a man to do things he didn’t think he could.  That morning was a celebration of the loving arms extended to young Luke and the loving arms a city extended to me.  There was no failure state involved.

I wont often write about runs that I go on outside of New York, and competitive runs even more rarely, but there are always special cases.

Hooray for Luke

The next day I ran about 12 miles along the shore of Lake Michigan, and then another 8.5 heading home from LaGuardia airport.

Quira Ba