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One of the many things I love about running is that when we race, despite the fact that we are all running against each other, our true opponent is ourselves. Whether we are pushing the envelope on a tempo run or attempting to hit a time in a marathon, in the end, we need only ask ourselves, “did I give it my all?”
I was recently involved in a race, one that had nothing to do with running. Competitive natures as they are, each contestant still wanted to win. My approach to the race was fairly laid back. In the end, it probably came down in part to being a popularity contest. I’ve never been a fan of those because they tend to cloud the issues and prevent the most qualified people from being elected.
It was suggested to me by several people if maybe every candidate could be declared a winner. The parent in me kind of understood this – there were four of us vying for three positions. Why leave one person out in the cold? What are we showing our kids if we’re essentially voting to exclude one person?
As the parent of a daughter with autism, one of, if not the biggest fears I have is her being excluded because she is different. My wife, in fact, is the founder and driving force behind our elementary school’s Inclusion Committee. We are ALL about inclusion.
However,that is not how the real world works. Even if the wife and I are able to realize the dream of a full inclusion society, that doesn’t mean that everybody gets to be a winner every time (if at all). In the real world there are those that win and those that lose, and more often than not, in a race of any kind, there are more losers than winners.
If the conversation ended there, that statement could seem a bit harsh. To me, this is where those on the far right and those on the far left often stop with there one liners, yelling and screaming AT each other, never talking TO each other. That 15% of America has taken the fun out of competition.
The race doesn’t end at the finish line. To me, it’s not whether you win or lose (though I am competitive enough to prefer a win), but HOW you win or lose.
To go back to the election I was recently in, several people had approached me about lobbying to allow every one a slot. Truth be told, the world wasn’t going to end either way. It was argued to me that we are teaching our kids exclusion by leaving one of the four candidates out. But something kept nagging at me on the other end. I could hear the “it is what it is” voice in my head – the one that said the rules are the rules. But it’s just one more person. Nope! You gotta follow the rules!
But then it hit me. The greater lesson to our kids would be, how did the person who came in 4th handle their loss? Would they simply disappear? Would they get angry? or would they still make sure their voice was heard?
A friend of mine, J-Ro, once said to me, and I’m paraphrasing here, that we learn much more about ourselves through loss and adversity than through victory. I believe that to be true. And I think America as a whole used to believe that too. However, I’ve helplessly watched our political system go into the toilet because the extremists in our country either a.) don’t want anybody to lose or b.) never learned how to learn from loss (I’ll let you figure out who’s who).
I know that I learned much more about myself over the course of 2010 BECAUSE I failed so miserably at the Manchester Marathon in 2009. Had I cruised to a BQ on my first marathon attempt, I don’t think I would have appreciated it as much as I did when I finally broke through at Smuttynose.
Loss is a good thing. Failure can ruin us, to be sure, but only if we let it. Whether you lose by a nose or get your rear end handed to you, it hurts. It’s what you do with that hurt that matters.
I like to think that failure is there to make us better, stronger, sharper.
I know it’s made me a better runner.