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Growing and Not Knowing: Insight from Running

Updated on August 15, 2012

In high school, I was a cross country runner. A sport that I originally began competing in to stay in shape for soccer became a sport that I loved and enjoyed. Eventually I became one of the top performers at my school. Like any sports team we had traditions and expectations.

One of the expectations for those that finished first in practice was to not stop just becase we were done. Whenever we finished, we were encouraged to go back and pace with the others still trying to finish. We were supposed to motivate them to finish strong.

At the time, it seemed like a nice thing to do. If anyone has ever run a 5k or any race longer, you've probably experienced people on the sidelines cheering you on especially as you close in on the finish. This is exciting and can boost a runner's energy or provide a second wind. At the very least, it helps the runner feel good about what he or she has accomplished.

As I've thought back on those moments of running back and helping others finish I realized that there's another side to it that I never caught on to. That other side asked the question, "How much more can I run?" When I would track back to go help a teammate, I was increasing my run. I was getting an extra workout in without even knowing it. I just gave all I had to finish my own workout, but now, without thinking, I'm pushing myself even more. This never crossed my mind though. Like I said, it just always seemed helpful. I just didn't know how helpful.

Did my coach secretly know what he was doing? Did he really want us to encourage our teammates or did he want us to work out more? He's probably smart enough to know that he was accomplishing both. We pushed our teammates to finish and at the same time pushed ourselves. This translates into so many parts of our lives. We should be asking ourselves:

What am I doing to help others finish? (And finish strong.)

What am I doing to push myself?

I still have to run on my own, but who am I going back to and encouraging?


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