I wonder sometimes if I’m more of a butterfly chaser than I am a racer.
I remember this one race …I guess it must have been maybe my second year of cross-country.
I ate a big bag of orange slices (the candy, not the healthy fruit) before the race, so my blood sugar was probably a little messed up.
It wasn’t one of my best races.
The end of the race is the part that I really remember, though.
I came around the final turn and there was a little rise in elevation…and then it all flattened out and there was a roped off corridor that we had to run down to finish up.
When I saw that wide, roped off area, I started my kick.
When you’ve kind of dogged it in an ill-timed sugar funk for most of the race, you have some reserves left for a potentially impressive kick.
I started sprinting…and then I saw him.
He was a runner from another school…probably a sprinter who’d been made to run cross-country to get ready for track season.
He was a lot more muscular than a cross country runner should be.
I blew by him and managed to hold him off…even though, after looking over at me in surprise, he pulled out all the stops and went into his own version of a desperate kick.
I was the WINNER…even though I was far from being the first one to cross the finish line.
Coach Traina, my coach that year, met me at the finish line and said, “What happened out there? You shouldn’t have that much at the end.”
I could have told him about the orange slices….I could have made up some excuse…but I was still a little proud of myself for saving up for a BIG FINISH like that.
He was probably right. I shouldn’t have had that much of a kick at the end. I had a whole race to exhaust all that energy.
Looking back, I realize now that it’s probably the same thing that always happens. I save enough during the “long race” that I might have a chance to do something impressive at the end.
I have big plans for the end…I’m really going to blow it out at the finish line.
I am distracted by the finish line before the starting gun has even been fired.
What hope is there of enjoying the race if I’m only thinking about the roped off corridor?
I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy the “race”…I do. I love every step of it, every plodding step…I love the missteps and mistakes, the triumphs….I love the journey.
And I still really love the occasional big finish. I love passing in an ever slower blur. I like surprising people.
But Coach Traina was right all those years ago.
I don’t want to get down to the end and have any reason to ask myself, ” What happened out there? You shouldn’t have had that much left at the end.”