If you’ve ever been to an Atlanta Braves game, you know that one of the highlights of the game is the “Tool Race.” I wish they would dial back the commercialism some, but it is fun in a silly way and a nice break from the tension of the game. Home Depot is one of the sponsors, so each of the “runners” is a tool (with appropriate logos emblazoned strategically): “Two Bit” (the drill), the hammer, the paint brush, and the paint bucket. The bucket has replaced the saw this year, I think, because I don’t remember seeing him before. And, I would have noticed, because, as it turns out, he runs a lot like me. Slow and unwieldy instead of sleek and fast: he pounds along. He used his cunning in one of the races the other night, and either pushed down or tripped all his opponents to win that race. Of course, that came back to bite him the next game, when hammer and Two Bit clotheslined him and he fell. Maybe I would win more races if I knocked all the old broads out of the way and steamrollered through. Hmmm….I’m not crazy about the karma thing, though, so I guess I’ll keep plugging along and concern myself with keeping my own body upright.
I’m training for a half marathon at the end of November and just entered week 3. This morning’s run called for an easy six miler, and I accomplished it with the appropriate amount of energy, ending with a nice feeling of accomplishment, and without leg pain, so it’s a win. It was slow. Excrutiatingly slow, actually. But, all my runs are, it seems. I sometimes let that eat away at my self esteem, feel less like a runner, or compare myself unfavorably to other runners, which further erodes my confidence.
As I ran this morning, I plodded along. Slow and steady, trying to put miles on my legs while staying injury free. About mile four, a young woman ran by me, passing me like I was standing still. The inevitable comparisons started in my head, and I tried to quiet them by concentrating on the podcast I was listening to. Believe it or not, it was about that very thing. Comparisons. Andy Stanley’s messages offer Biblical solutions for real world problems in a way that exemplifies exactly what Jesus taught us to do. This podcast was from his “Your Move” with Andy Stanley section, which takes sermon series he’s done in the past and replays them. It was entitled, “The Comparison Trap – The Land of Er.”
I loved it because it encapsulated exactly what I was feeling. I want to be fastER, strongER, thinnER, fittER than I am. All those things, in themselves, are okay. It’s when I allow the inevitable comparisons with other runners to eat away at my motivation and make me feel less than I actually am that the trouble starts. The young woman who blew past me this morning was at least 25 years younger than me. I look at other runner’s times, and think “I’ll never be able to run that fast, why am I even trying?” My head tells me to stop that, and lists reasons why someone may be faster than me (age, sex, genetics all play important roles), but my heart is heavy with the “Er” factor. And, your head can say all it wants, until your heart understands, it’s tough to reconcile.
So, I’m working on eliminating the “er” from my life. I will always want to be faster, stronger, thinner, and fitter, but the only comparison I’m going to make is to who I was yesterday, not who the runner in the corral next to me is. I am who I am, God’s perfect creation, struggling to be who He wants me to be, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. But, it’s my journey, no one else’s.
Don’t think that means I simply shrug my shoulders and accept that I’ll always be slow. Quite the contrary. But I don’t have to be the best or the fastest runner, I just have to be better than I was yesterday. And, just when I think about quitting or giving up on one day being marginally faster than I am, Diana Nyad gives her 28 year old self the finger and swims from Cuba to Key West with no shark cage at age 64. Geez. Talk about an “Er” moment. She gives me hope and is a reminder to never give up on yourself or your dreams.
4 Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind.
5 “Fools fold their idle hands, leading them to ruin.” 6 And yet,“Better to have one handful with quietness than two handfuls with hard work and chasing the wind.”
Ecclesiastes 4:4-6 (NLT)
I’m running with one hand outstretched, asking God to fill it with ability, contentment, strength, and peace.