“Human beings, it seems, are at their best when immersed deeply in something challenging.”
“Have you ever won any races?” my friend asked me. She knew I was running in a half marathon the next day so she was curious. Am I the competitive or the just-happy-to- finish type?
I didn’t want to answer her. I don’t talk about my love for running with most people.
If I tell them the whole story, I worry they might think I’m crazy or maybe a tad obsessed, so I just keep it to myself.
Of course, my husband knows my regular morning running routine. He witnesses the smile when I return. My stringy wet hair if I am caught in a rainstorm. He knows my long run days mean I’ll be home exactly when the kids wake up. He unfortunately is familiar with the sweat smell of the same two pink and gray shirts I have on rotation. He doesn’t know the details like exactly how far I go or my pace, but when he’s interested in doing the math, he’s not afraid to ask.
He knows running is my time to relax into myself, meditate on life, decompress from unending days of kid drama. He has always been fully supportive, watching early rising children if need be, and letting me go without any guilt trip.
Perhaps the most significant part about my husband’s support is he knows the full story and he still trusts me.
He knows winning was and still can be an obsession for me.
Even winning against my own watch.
I am competitive to the core. I can remember being this way since a child. It took extra effort to celebrate a second, third, fourth, tenth place finish, or worse, an honorable mention. In any competition, even a grocery store coloring contest, I wanted to come out on top somehow.
My desire to win suffocated me at various times in my life. It stole my simple delight of striding down the open road with a good sweat trickling down my back and the sound of my steady breathing keeping me company. Frankly, at its peak, the desire took the sparkle out of my eyes and drained all the life out of my physical body.
Winning whittled down everything to performance and place and setting personal records. A small existence indeed.
Furthermore, and perhaps even more devastating, my identity warped into a number on the scale that I was always trying to beat.
Those struggles are still a part of me.
I still compete. I still want to win. Sometimes I still weigh myself.
Nothing is wrong with any of those actions. Due to the presence of my ever-supportive husband I’m finally learning to release the guilt I felt for so long in regard to my desires, my love for running fast, working hard, and being challenged. He actually loves those parts of me.
(I think some of us could use a little healthier competitiveness in our life, the kind that spurs us on towards meaningful risks and selfless deeds and radical care of one another and ourselves.)
There are struggles that are a part of you too my friend, good struggles that I don’t want you to stop wrestling with.
It’s a freeing thing to recognize and name them because they make you who you are.
Giving ourselves permission to be human, extending more grace than what is acceptable, and understanding we won’t ever have things perfectly under control, is when discover the gift of our struggles.
I took a deep breath and smiled, knowing full well it wasn’t the time to explain to her the whole story, “Yes, I have won some races,” I said nonchalantly.
She was giddy with my response, as most people are if they hear I’ve won a race before.
The next day was one of the best races of my life, not because of a certain place I received, but because of the joy flowing in my heart as I pushed myself to keep a steady tempo and give it my all.
I had all the same feelings of coming in first place.
I still love winning and running, probably always will, and I’m growing more unashamed of that by the second.