I ran the Tomoka Marathon 5k this morning here in the Daytona Beach area. This marathon is Daytona's only one, and they have a half marathon and 5k as well. I ran the 5k simply because I had a friend running the marathon and it was her first. I wanted to watch her finish. To me, getting up early to exercise isn't a chore so what the heck.
I was thinking on the way to the race how my emotional wellness has evolved over the years. I've done countless different endurance events over the past 25 years, and for the majority of those years I took myself way too seriously. I would obsess over times and my placing. I was not always a good sport either. When you're in the middle of an endurance event there is a lot of suffering. The legs are heavy, the lungs are maxed out, and every fiber of your being wants to quit. But the competitive side won't let you. So you're stuck. You are stuck in the suffering. How did I handle pain? I got angry. If I was passed while suffering, there were few "good jobs". There was a resentful mutter and glare.
Wellness is emotional health as much as physical health. In the peak of my physical fitness I wish I could say I was equally composed. But I wasn't. My self-esteem was too wrapped up in my performance. If i wasn't good I wasn't OK. In those early days, I'd spend car rides on the way to races obsessing over what I would need to do to control the situation. I'd want to get to triathlons early to get the best bike spot. If I went with friends, my words were of encouragement, but my heart wanted to beat them...needed to beat them.
Back to today. Thankfully, if we continue to seek betterment of our body, mind, and spirit, we'll grow. On the way up to the race this AM, I listened to a spiritual podcast that I typically do, and my thoughts were very different than years ago. I was thinking about how I really don't care how I do or feel today, and that I'm most concerned with my friend and friends having a good day. My energy was spent on hoping they were safe and confident. During the event I still suffered. I don't think you can run a 5k with your perceived best effort without wishing it was over. But, this pain doesn't make me angry anymore. I've finished hundreds of races. Now I use this energy to help those who are suffering next to me.
Today my biggest concern on the course was keeping the young kids to the right of the cones so they stayed safe from cars. Their suffering made them worry about racing and not cars. I may have not even noticed 10 years ago. We are all a work in progress, and I felt victorious today as I finished in the middle of the pack, with my healthy it's not about me perspective. Endurance racing gives me an opportunity to not only build my fitness, but more importantly, my character.