Success is in the eye of the beholder

4 11 2012

So – busy weekend!

I spend Friday night and all day Saturday helping other trainers train new trainers to train adult volunteers for Scouts Canada (Are you still on the train?). One of the modules (not delivered by me, but I observed the trainer to help give feedback), was on “assessment”. i.e. – how do you know you achieved what you set out to achieve in that session?

I got today off (there are other much more able trainers handling the rest of the sessions today) because Mrs E. and I were running in races at Boundary Bay, near Tsawwassen (try saying that after a skinful of ale!) I had tried to avoid the event with the usual range of contrived excuses:

  • “I can’t – my wife died recently!” – “I’m your wife!” (Still working on that one…)
  • “I can’t – the clocks change that morning!” – “That means you get an EXTRA hour in bed”
  • “It might rain!” – “You’re from Yorkshire, you LOVE the rain!”
  • “I’m not fit enough!” – “You’ve climbed The Grouse countless times this year, done The Chief 3 times AND done the Sun Run!”
  • “Well – I haven’t been training recently” – “OK – you can do the 5km then”  (A partial win at least!)

And so it went on. Having had my will-power eroded in late Winter/Spring to the extent that I agreed to enter Vancouver’s 10km Sun Run, I find myself now even less able to logically push back when it is suggested I might “like” to enter other local races. The Boundary Bay event had some small respite because they had organised marathon/half-marathon/10km and 5km races all at the same time. Though Mrs E. insisted on the 10km race, I was “let off light” and allowed to enter the 5km race.

It’s been raining pretty steadily here for a week or so now, and though I do indeed enjoy the rain, this race is along the coastal path and it’s blustery and offered a mixture of sea spray with the rain. And running makes you hot, so it’s not great having to wear a coat. (I think perhaps I actually enjoy wearing coats rather than STRICTLY enjoy the rain per se. I never thought of it like that before…) So anyway we ran, I lived, they gave us free bananas (and other way more complicated “health bars” with ingredient lists longer than the OED), water, “electrolyte drinks” (see OED reference again)… and McDonald’s coffee. Huh!? Not sure how that came to be there!

Regarding the electrolyte drink, (and the other “health food” products offered at other tables) – this was administered by two Lycra-clad young sirens who were there to attract new sales and associate sex with product in the minds of hot, sweaty runners. I encountered them moments after crossing the line, having my timing tag forcibly removed from my running shoe by a pair of wire-cutters in the hands of a lad barely co-ordinated enough to tie his own shoes, and while still definitely breathing hard – I felt defenseless to the onslaught of DuPont‘s most sexy product.

I felt obliged to engage the “look at me” sisters in banter and partake of the offering of “healthy” product. That was after all the purpose of their presence. And more to the point, Mrs E. was a good 5km away still!

Having heard the word “electrolyte” and having enough memory of my school-days to remember that basically meant SALT, I braced myself for the taste. It actually tasted quite sweet and not unpleasant. I asked if it was mango flavoured, since this was the sense I had. Blank looks from both young ladies. I know I have something of an unusual accent for these parts, so I helpfully tried “peach perhaps?” This triggered a slightly less confused look, and one (I think they were playing “share the neuron“) said “Oh… no, but it is tropical flavours, maybe that’s what you can taste.” In between my still ragged breaths I smiled kindly, as one would to a dog succumbing to its euthenising injection, and left tout de suite before I caught whatever was affecting them.

I awaited the return of my more committed wife, and we ambled over to the results sheet. It appears I was 4th in my gender/age group (which was actually 0-99… and therefore 4th man). Naturally therefore, they were only awarding prizes to the top 3 (if would have been top 2 if I’d been third, no doubt).

I was feeling reasonably pleased with myself until on the way home, when the analytical brain that had been pushed aside in the attempt to keep me breathing was allowed some air time once more.  This was underlined when we got home, and Mrs E. informed everyone that “dad was 4th in the men’s race”.

2nd born (the pink and fluffy one) said “Oh?! How many men were running?” Ha – if one still needed proof of genetic theory, there it was, writ large: cynicism is a genetic trait!! Though she “hadn’t meant it that way”, the large red throbbing implication was that perhaps only 4 men were in the race! Dad being last was much more likely.

But now, as I sit with a reasonably steady heart rate once more, and calmly assess the morning’s events, it does raise the philosophical question of “success”.

I really was just genuinely pleased that I’d finished, not had to walk at all, kept upright, and needed no ride in a white van with flashing lights and a boring two-tone sound track. I’d begun the day with “success” being defined as “finishing”. I know I am far from the general definition of fit, and my personal bar was pretty low. It was only a 5km run, and when I do run for exercise, I typically run 4km anyway. It wasn’t ultimately much of a stretch.

As I waited for Mrs E. to return from her 10km race though, I watched a steady stream of much younger and theoretically more fit people complete their own 5km race. I had passed teenagers who had already hit their own “wall” and were walking, as I ran. There were one or two obese people who were walking the entire race – but they were there, having their own successes. Each race class had a different coloured bib, so you could tell if people were completing the 5km, 10km, half marathon, etc. Some of the 10km runners were arriving pretty much at the same time as me – having run twice the distance.

So – yes, I was 4th in the men’s 5km race, but…

It still took me 32 minutes.

I was 11th overall, so 7 women were faster than me (not that I mean to imply they shouldn’t be!)

There were people finishing around the same time who had run twice as far.

Most people were doing the 10km race, so only those who were less able, less committed (me!) or perhaps pressed for time were even in the 5km race.

And then I thought…

But I did race, and I did finish, and as we arrived home to find my son still in his pyjamas playing video games… I realised success really is a very personal thing. I didn’t enter “to win”. I’d have been just as happy if I was the only competitor in the 5km race, or finished 500th. It was actually about my own experience.

We should certainly have goals, and strive to achieve them. But not everybody needs to “be the best” or even “beat their best time”.  For some it’s the taking part – walking or not!

So whatever you choose to do today… just remember it’s the only time you’ll have today. Make it a success… however you choose to define that.

And if you meet people who define your success as a “failure”. Smile politely, thank them, and tell them they’ve just helped you beat your own record for “number of pillocks you’ve met in one day”.

(“Pillock” may be substituted for “wanker”, “arsehole/asshole” or any other localised epithet you prefer.)

Now. Go… be you! You’re definitely the best person there is at doing that!

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3 responses

4 11 2012
A Dog With Fleas

Such a great lesson and congrats on finishing!! Well done.

4 11 2012
Quieter Elephant

Well that’s very kind of you to say. I didn’t really think of it so much of a lesson as “prattling on”, but I’m glad you liked it.
Thanks also for your congratulations. Always nice to get a little stroking. (As it were! 😉 )

4 11 2012
A Dog With Fleas

It wasn’t “prattling on” at all. I love the perseverance in it. Well done! 🙂

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