Yesterday I ran my longest race yet, a 25K (15.53 miles) set in my hometown, Grand Rapids, MI. It’s a race I’ve had my sights set on for a while now, as it is the largest 25K in the nation, attracting over 21,000 runners this year from all over the world. Realizing I hadn’t traveled north to my home state in nearly two years (whoops, sorry MI!), I made plans to return for a visit over the weekend of the 5/3 River Bank Run, and had eagerly anticipated taking on a distance I had yet to conquer.
Shortly before my trip home, a controversy within an OCR group in which I have very close ties to created a spark of dramatic, angry outbursts between people who had typically associated themselves as friends in the racing circuit. I watched on silently, not wishing to become involved as a debate over finisher medals became heated, and then downright ugly. Some believed that only top finishers should be awarded medals, with the mentality that not everyone should receive something just for showing up and running the race. Many others retorted, stating that a finisher medal is a great momento of a race finished, and that even though the vast majority of people will never be elite, that does not mean that they have not put forth a great effort to complete the same course that the winning athletes did.
As I was running yesterday, I was able to reflect on this discussion, and came to the resolve that I actually did want to briefly speak on this argument. So here I go.
I have only been running for three years, yet in those three years I have run many races. Some have earned me a podium win, while others have dished out an intense struggle and I’ve not finished nearly as well as I had hoped. Not all races I’ve run have included a medal, but each medal I possess is proudly displayed in my home as they all remind me of a specific moment of triumph or struggle, accomplishment or lesson learned.
In the last three years I have also spent countless hours training. I have conditioned my body, and worked on honing my skills as I continually strive toward personal improvement. I train to run faster, and to gain strength to better conquer the many obstacles I encounter during my events. I have gradually improved, and in the last year earned my place on quite a few podiums. It’s an honor to stand in front of my peers and accept an award, and it provides me the drive to continue striving toward better results in the future.
I have fought hard to earn each one of my podium medals/awards, and I am very proud of each of them.
With that said, as much as I excel at the intervals of an obstacle race, I will never win a road race. Not by a long shot. As much as I may train, I know I will never run a 5 minute mile. Heck, the idea of running just one single mile in under 7 minutes makes my stomach turn (I’d most likely puke then pass out). I admire the runners who are blessed with the speed and endurance to run at blazing fast speeds for miles on end, but as much as I may dream to one day run that fast, I know that will never be the case.
However, just because I cannot run a sub 6-minute mile, and just because I will never come close to winning a road race does not mean that completing a race (no matter the length) is any less of an accomplishment.
I ran 15.5 miles yesterday. Fifteen point five. That’s a lot! Was I fast? Nope. I was a middle-of-the-pack finisher, completing the race in 2 hours and 38 minutes, which is just over a 10 minute mile pace. And maybe to some people that sounds slow, or not that impressive, but to me, a working mother who just three years ago couldn’t run a quarter of a mile, I’m thrilled! I ran smart yesterday, I paced myself well, and felt great through the entire event. I didn’t bonk, I ran the entire time without the need to walk, and I tackled the rolling hills with ease. So although I finished as a middle-of-the-pack participant, you can’t tell me I didn’t earn the medal that was hung around my neck after I carried my tired body across the finish line.
I didn’t win, but I still worked incredibly hard to be able to run a distance that I’ve never run before. I am not an elite road racer, but I still pushed myself physically and mentally to complete a task without thought of giving up. I committed to a goal, and I followed through with the commitment.
I earned my medal.
So whether it’s 1 mile, a 5K, or a full marathon, if you follow through and complete that race, take that medal and wear it proudly! You have accomplished so much more than the hundreds of thousands of people that refuse to even try.
I’ll keep training hard, and I am so happy with my 25K results! Although I don’t run many road races since my main focus is obstacle racing, I truly enjoy the challenge they provide (plus it keeps things interesting). I may just make the 5/3 River Bank Run a yearly tradition.
Tomorrow is Medal Monday! I’ll be rocking mine, and if you raced this weekend I hope you do too. Congratulations for committing to a challenge and following through to the finish line! In my book, you’re pretty amazing!