Two-Part Race: The Gathering and The Test

Wearing No. 39 is Olympic athlete Sonia O'Sullivan in the Oman Cup Race at the Phoenix Park in Dublin
Wearing No. 39 is Olympic athlete Sonia O’Sullivan in the Oman Cup Race at the Phoenix Park in Dublin

After weeks of preparation (years, really), it’s your moment to shine. To celebrate all of the wonderful new things your body can do thanks to your hard work and dedication.

As runners, we celebrate with a race – where we get to experience all of the things we love about running, rolled up into one event.

Although it’s a single event, we often experience a race in two distinctly different parts – the gathering and the test.

In the first part, you get to experience the great joy of running – the gun goes off and you’re moving swiftly and effortlessly, gliding along as you only do in dreams.

In the second, you have the opportunity to test your mettle – exploring the edges of your physical and mental abilities, striving and straining for something you’ve never done before.

The trick is to take note of, welcome, and make the most of both.

As we’ve all experienced, the dream-like quality of the first part of the race will end and the reality of the test will set in. It might creep up, or it could surprise and overwhelm. It might come early, or it might come late.

Again, the trick is to work both parts.

During the first part – the dream run – be awake to it. Don’t squander it by not fully appreciating your good fortune. Enjoy these moments and note everything about them – the feeling, the color, the smell, the sound. Collect these morsels – they’re your sustenance for the trials to come.

If you run smartly, without greed or haste, you can extend this phase until late in the race – gathering your strength in preparation for the test.

Then, the switch flips and the light fades …

A ha! This is it. This is what I came for – I’ve been expecting you. Let’s roll.

The contest has begun. It’s time to make yourself proud.

Well fortified, this test is a joy. You’re unleashing hard-won strength and reveling in its power to propel you.
But, go in undernourished, having rushed or wasted your glorious opening strides, and this test is soul-crushing.

My challenge to you is to go beyond hoping for a great race to actively planning and executing a great race.

Set yourself up to enjoy the entire celebration.

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