“I don’t belong here…”
This is the persistent thought I’ve been plagued with for the past few weeks. As the race gets closer and closer I think it more and more. Sure, on one hand it’s not really anything different than the many other OCR races I’ve run. It’s some trails, some things to climb over, some things to pick up, and some things to swing from. On the other hand, this is a Championship event!
I was over the moon excited when I qualified to run, but for all of the reasons I haven’t been training, I haven’t been training. I think heading into this feeling prepared would have made a big difference. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still pumped to be a part of this event, but there’s been this voice in the back of my head telling me that, while I did work hard and earned my spot, I am not that same person anymore. I haven’t been eating right, I haven’t been exercising. The person that I am today does not deserve to be here. I’m not the excited person, eager to attack the course. Instead, I’m the guy having serious concerns about coming in last (this is a Championship after all, most of the competitors here are skilled racers). I’m the guy worried that they are going to pull me off the course for hitting the 5 hour time cap on the 15k race. I’m the guy going into the race knowing my chances of keeping my bands are close to zero.
This all kind of came to a head when I was staring at my gear for the event. The production quality of everything is top notch, even the bib is very high quality. But the thing that got me most was the lanyard. The more events I attend the more I notice the distinguishing lanyards people are wearing. Maybe it’s the press, maybe it’s the talent. But either way, it’s never me wearing it. And now I have one.
There it is: a beautiful cardboard rectangle attached to a branded lanyard that has my name actually printed upon it. Below the name is one simple, sobering word.”Athlete”.
I was sitting there staring at it, embarrassed. “I’m no athlete…” I felt guilty, almost like I’d take it from someone else. Someone who deserves it. I took time off of work, spent a decent sum of money, and dedicated a lot of time to coming here. And for what? To lose my bands? To come in last? To get pulled from the course?
All of these thoughts were swirling around in my head and then I had a moment of clarity. During this moment I realized that I did actually deserve to be here. Yes, it’s true I’m not in the shape I was in when I qualified, but I busted my butt to get the race time that brought me here. I sacrificed food, time, energy, money, social gatherings, and other hobbies to get here. I had the goal of qualifying, I worked hard, and I got it! So, while I might not do great, that doesn’t mean I don’t belong here.
I know I fall into this, and I am sure many others do as well, but it’s too easy to define ourselves by a snapshot of our lives. I’m not the person I was when I qualified, so I thought I didn’t deserve it anymore. We take a look at ourselves at any given moment and make an assessment that we accept as fact.
“I’m out of shape”
“I’m not good enough”
Whatever it may be, we think these thoughts and them commit them to our identity without question. Well, right now I’m fat, out of shape, and probably not good enough to do well in these races. But you know what? That doesn’t mean I don’t deserve to be here. It turns out that I am the same person who qualified. The situation might be different, but the same hard work that got me here can re-chisel out that ‘other version’ of myself that got the qualifying time.
I have adopted a song lyric as my life mantra but I need to remember it more often. I do repeat it to myself before every race and it has helped me through some hard times in my life. The lyric is: There is no Truth. There is only you and what you make the Truth.
You are not the number on the scale or your pants/dress size. You are not your mile time. You are not your salary. You are who or whatever you want to be. Of course, becoming that person can take time and hard work; no one said it was easy, but it is possible. You can get that promotion, you can ask out that cute person on the subway, or, if you work hard enough, you can even be that “fat and lazy” person who is about to compete in their first championship race.