Last weekend our team traveled to Notre Dame, IN for our first official race of the season. I was excited to finally lace up my spikes for a real race where I could test my fitness against the competition. It was also our team’s first chance to see how we stacked up against the other schools, and how close our pack would be in a real race environment. I had pretty high goals going into the race. After all, last year I took 4th off of little summer training, so I knew with all of the base I’d put in I needed to be up there racing for the win. I was also hoping for a big PR since I have no idea if I’ll ever run another 5k cross country race after college.
As soon as the race took off I fought for the front. I felt all right through 1.5 miles, but then the pace just started feeling more difficult than I’d anticipated. I knew the splits weren’t anything crazy, so I started wondering if something was wrong with me. Before I knew it, I’d fallen off the front pack, and the last mile was a complete mental battle. As I headed into the last 1000m, I remember thinking reminding myself, “You can’t give up, you have to fight. You have to catch a few for this team!” I had to remind myself that I was running for more than myself. I couldn’t just mosey into the finish and say, “Oh well it wasn’t my day.” I was running for my team, and to glorify the one who gave me the very lungs and legs that were burning in that moment; but it still wasn’t enough to reach my goal.
After the race, I tried to stay positive and focus on the highlights. I’d just run a 16 second personal best, our team won the meet, and we put five girls under 17minutes. But as happy as I was for my teammates who ran so well, I was still disappointed that I didn’t quite reach my goal. It was hard at first, to look at the results and face the fact that, not only did I fail to win, I failed to even take top three on my own team. At first, I’ll be honest, envious thoughts started creeping into my head. I started questioning, “Why did they run so well? Why not ME?” But then I had to remind myself I hadn’t run a horrible race. The reality was that the #1 ranking we just received is well deserved. This team we have is special, but not only that, very humbling. Every day in practice, this team knows that if you don’t show up with 110% you’ll easily fall back from leading workouts to chasing down the entire team. It’s incredibly competitive, but incredibly special. However, having a team this good comes with a price. You have to be ready to give up all those things you might have used to run for: leading every run, every workout, maybe every race; or stealing every headline, taking all glory, and stealing all the spotlights. Our team is good because we don’t run for these things. We work hard every day to be our best, knowing that no one on this team is too good for the rest of us.
In the days following my race, I tried to keep this perpective, but I knew there was still a bit of bitterness in my heart. Perhaps just a bit of my ultra-competitive mindset taking over, but none the less I knew I couldn’t let it get the best of me. I kept praying that God would show me how this race would be used to glorify Him. On one hand, it already had in the fact that it had humbled me, but on the other hand I was still upset I did not win, and I knew that was not the attitude God wanted from me. After all, I had promised Him I was no longer “running for a win,” so why was I upset? Finally the answer came to me as I was reading from Luke 10:38 in during our team bible study.
In this passage, Jesus visits a woman named Martha at her home. While he visits, Martha’s sister Mary sits at his feet listening to him speak, and Martha complains that Mary should be taking care of all the things that need to be done around their house. After she complains, the Lord answers, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed-or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
As I was reading the passage, it suddenly hit me. By questioning God, “Why didn’t I run better? or, Why did they get to run so well?” I was acting like Martha. I was pointing the finger at others and being “worried and upset about many things.” I was focused all on myself instead of focusing on what God was showing me. He was re-aligning my perspective to what I’d known all along. Every race run is special, whether I win or lose. Titles will always be taken away, but humility and grace cannot. The joy of celebrating with one another will always triumph basking in self-glory.
I really hope I never have to fight these kinds of eternal battles of jealousy again, but the reality is I’m only human. Balancing the right amount of competitiveness and humility is not easy. However, I’m so thankful that God has put me in a place where I am always “put in my place.” I’m thankful to be on a team that keeps me humble and grounded. I also know that if I am walking with God, he’ll constantly remind me that I’m not here to just win races and collect praise. I’m here to praise others when they do well, and when I run well give the glory back to the one it came from.
So, I just want to say how proud I am of all my girls who raced. How blessed I am to have them, and that I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Go Noles!