In another life, at another time, I was a runner—a sprinter. I ran the 100m, the 200m, and the 400m. My favorite race was the 200m; however, my best race was the 400m.
The guys I raced typically competed in the same events, and they were faster than me in the quick sprints. In the 100m, they beat me easily. I didn’t have the takeoff speed needed to excel in that race and, usually, I was speeding up at the finish line. In the 200m, we were more equally matched. I would start off slower than them and then make up what I had lost in the turn around the home stretch. One particular race we had a five way tie for the win. The photo finish was incredible. It looked like one runner with several arms and legs flailing from their torso.
Then there was the 400m. Imagine sprinting for a quarter mile and you can imagine my chagrin every time I lined up for that race. It was about 50 seconds of speed and several hours of misery afterward. To this day, I cringe at the memories of the pain that came after the finish line. Win or no, that race was torture!
Most of the 400m runners didn’t understand that the race required strategy. From the gun, they would give everything they had, sprinting as fast as they could around the track. At the end of 200m, they would hit a “wall” and lose all the advantage they had built up. By 300m, there was nothing left for those racers but burning lungs and regret about entering the race in the first place. Not me. I sprinted at full speed for the first 100m and then slowed down and “coasted” along the straightaway. That may sound strange to you, considering this was a sprint, but that was the plan. My abilities required a different strategy than my competition. I ran at my own pace.
At 200m, I turned on my wheels. Giving everything I had again felt like a brand new race. I easily passed one or two runners before the end of the curve and slowly gained ground on the other 3 during the last 100m. By the finish, I was hurting (oh, you can’t imagine the pain), and either won the race or came in second. I never finished third.
I share this story because life is a lot like the 400m. Most people will try sprinting as fast as they can, attempting to run through life at the same speed as the person next to them. Some will keep up for a while, but then their lack of preparation, planning, or ability catches up to them and they hit the “wall,” unable to advance at the swift speeds of which they began. Soon they are passed by and left to struggle just to finish. Those people become forgettable and often change goals and ambitions.
I admit: falling into last place for that second 200m was torture. I imagined horrible things that people in the stadium must have been thinking as they watched me run. To them, I was the loser at that point. To fall behind so early must have meant that I was slow or unqualified for the event. Why had I even entered? After a couple races, however, the 400m became mine. Why? Because I ran at my own pace.
I encourage you all to take note of what you can do. know your abilities. Be aware of your strengths and your weaknesses. Be honest with yourself and proceed through life at a pace that you determine, not your competition. Set a strategy and stick to it. When you reach your goal, the race will have been yours to claim.