Dave: I’ll do it my way…

My word, how small is this world!

Remember Dave? The pace setter who got me to that finish line of Two Oceans Half Marathon on 2010? He read my blog! In addition to some awesome comments, he sent me this story which he wrote and which was published in 2008 in Runners World.

Not only did it touch me but I’m sure you will find it inspirational too…

Thanks Dave!

I’ll do it my way…

I had a moment this week that explained everything to me. It’s funny how things happen –– suddenly, out on a training run, I find the answers to all my running questions. And all it took was a little hill and a bit of self-examination. Crazy stuff!

I found out last Thursday what it is all about, during a training run in the lovely Sani Hotel area on the KZN-Lesotho border, where I was staying ahead of the Sani Stagger Half Marathon I was due to run on Saturday. I headed out for my run to loosen the old legs up a bit and encountered a hill. Not a very tough hill, but one that pushed my heart-rate monitor up, and admittedly I slowed down to a walk, but when I reached the top I thought to myself, “Damn, Self, what are you doing?”

I immediately turned around, ran back down that hill, turned around and ran up it again. And when I got to the top without walking I felt like Rocky Balboa in the first Rocky film when he runs up the stairs of a monument and gets to the top, stops and jumps around with his arms in the air, celebrating like he’s just won the world title. OK, I didn’t quite jump around pumping my fists in the air, but I did shout “OH YEAH!”

It hit me then, that this is what it is about – your personal choices and goals, what you decide you want to achieve, and not what is expected of you. I just wanted to get up that hill without walking –– my time didn’t matter, and nobody else’s time mattered. It was just about me and my goal.

We place so many expectations on ourselves: Win this race, or our age category, or do a certain time on that race. Or beat this person, or the sub-whatever pacing bus, or just finish before the cut-off. Take this past weekend’s Sani Stagger, where I set myself a goal of beating my friend Sharon. Well, let’s not even go there –– because I ate her dust! But I sure talked a good race before the time!

I think sometimes we don’t realise the potential damage we do by professing our semi-wondrous abilities in running, because there are newbies (brand new runners) reading every word we write on running forums, or speaking to us at work, social functions, club runs and races. They then sometimes go out there with great expectations only to be sadly disappointed with the results.

For example, you read on the forum that this runner did such and such race in this time and it was a great race, but actually this guy is a double green Comrades runner (20 or more medals) who has a 4km time trial time of sub-16 minutes! The newbie arrives and tries to be like this runner, does the 4km in 36 minutes and never returns because he or she is totally embarrassed. I mean, how could they have done such a bad time? No ways can they hang out with these real runners.

But it’s not about what others can do or achieve regularly, seemingly so easily. If you’re a newbie runner, you are what you want to be, and you should not let others prescribe what you must do or achieve.

Similarly, we often get labelled according to our abilities and speed. I used to be a walker, and you know, things were quite simple then. You were a social walker or you were a race walker. But now what do I call myself? I am not a ‘‘runner,’’ in the grand scale of things, because I am not an ‘‘alien,’’ a person whose times are out of this world. But I am not ‘‘just a jogger,’’ either, so here I am stuck in this void between runner and jogger.

But now I realise that I don’t care what people call me, because I am a runner. I have my own goals and I will go after them in my own way, at my own speed, and on my terms. It doesn’t matter what others do, say or think, as long as I know I am doing my best.

For I am a runner.

(Dave’s blog: http://back2basicsqbh.wordpress.com/)

Dave is not always going to be there…

You see this photo below? I’m the girl with the red top and blue cap. The big guy next to me is Dave. He was the pace setter that got me over the 2009 Two Oceans half marathon finish line. This photo was taken of the 3 hour bus coming up to UCT.

I can still remember that day clearly. The relief when I finally caught Dave at the 16km mark. I immediately felt safe. I immediately knew I was going to make it. I knew I’d finish strong. With singing and words of encouragement, Dave got me (and a lot of other runners) to that finish line with 5 minutes to spare and for which I will be forever grateful.

Unfortunately, 2010 was a very different experience. I arrived at the start of the race to find that Dave was nowhere to be seen. In fact, there was no 3 hour pace setter. This immediately set me back mentally as I was planning on running with the 3 hour bus and realised I would need to run the entire race by myself.

So with no Dave to carry me, my race was a struggle. I did not finish in the required 3 hours. I missed cut-off by 6 minutes. There was no t-shirt or certificate to say that I had completed the race. Nothing. I was devastated. I felt like a complete failure. In fact, I was filled with so much anger that there wasn’t a “Dave” to carry me home.

But it wasn’t Dave’s fault. I realise that now.

I came back in 2011 to get my medal. But this time, I was a bit wiser. I knew in my mind that if I was to finish in time, I had to rely on nobody but myself. I needed to ensure that the training I did was enough. I needed to ensure my legs were strong enough. More importantly, I needed to know that my mind was in the right place.

I guess in life, we often rely on others and when those people are not there anymore, we crumble. We fail and then we blame others.

I’ve come to realise that in life, I never quite know if there will always be someone to rely on or not. Chances are, there won’t always be a “Dave” by my side to carry me through so I need to be prepared for whatever surprises come my way. Just like my races, I need to know how to rely on my own strength to get me across that finish line.