This episode focuses on striving for greatness. To understand this episode, I think that it would be helpful to know where it came from. We are coming up on the end of the cross country season and trying to put things in perspective for a group of kids with hopes of reaching the state meet. The New York City marathon is also this weekend which gets me thinking about my friend Ryan Shay who passed away during the Olympic Trials in Central Park back in 2007.
There is a natural tendency as humans to compare ourselves to those around us. The Olympics are the physical pinnacle of this comparison, and yet as we cover in the show the motto, “Citius, Altius, Fortius” only means faster, higher, stronger. The goal of gathering the world’s greatest athletes it for all of them to raise each other up and test the limits of human capacity.
The ultimate comparison is not with another, but to the voice inside of you. The goal is to continuous move towards a better version of yourself. Perfection is an impossible goal, and yet that is exactly what we should all be striving for. Every person should push, on a daily basis, for self improvement. When a task is done, you understand whether that is the best you could do on that day. Self-comparison, that takes into account all of the external and internal factors causing stresses physically and emotionally, is the only comparison needed for a Real Life Runner.
We dive into the classic point that running is a metaphor for all of life’s struggles. Additionally, when pursuing greatness, we cannot be satisfied with greatness in only one area. Every day is another chance to become a better person in terms of health, but also in terms of emotional growth, and social development. We discuss the athlete that pushes so hard, but also is generally unkind to others, or suffers from an eating disorder. This is clearly not a pursuit of overall greatness.
We briefly talk about my college friend Ryan Shay, who was never satisfied with being good enough. In high school, he won state meets, but was also valedictorian and class president. He chose a college where he could excel in running, but also academically be pushed. I have never run with someone with such focus on greatness in running. This passion spilled over into his relationships with others, as he brought such positive energy to those around him.
Finally, we wrap it up with a discussion about balance. The monthly program for Real Life Runners does not solely focus on mileage and intensity. Strength, active recovery, healthy recipes, and community connection are all included. The goal is not to become just faster, but better overall. When I teach, class begins with a life lesson for the day, because science facts are useful, but it is even greater to become a better person.
Angie is fond of saying that there are seasons in our lives when we can focus on certain areas more than others. This is always true for Real Life Runners, but it important to be sure to never abandon an one area. In a lifelong pursuit of greatness, we must always put in the work day after day. This work may be miles on the feet or stretching out of our emotional comfort zone to become a greater version of ourselves. Reaching for greatness is a constant grind, but there is no more worthwhile pursuit.
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